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 Thursday, June 15, 2006 13:53 EST

England rides two late goals to sink Trinidad & Tobago

NUREMBERG, Germany (AP) - Peter Crouch ended England's second-half drought and sent his team into the second round of the World Cup.

Crouch headed in a cross by David Beckham in the 83rd minute to give England the goal it struggled to get all game and beat tiny Trinidad and Tobago 2-0 Thursday.

Steven Gerrard added a goal in injury time and England got its second straight win in Group B to clinch a spot in the next round.

"People expected us to walk through this game," Beckham said. "We knew they were going to play 11 men behind the ball. They made it hard for us all game. We knew if we kept to our game plan that we'd break them down."

England controlled the play for most of the game, but Crouch and others missed countless good chances in front of the net, raising Trinidad's hopes of holding its second straight favorite to a 0-0 draw.

England got a boost from Wayne Rooney's early return from a broken foot in the 58th minute, and finally broke through near the end. Aaron Lennon, the 19-year-old winger who came on in the second half, got the ball to Beckham in open space on the right side.

Beckham took his time and found the 6-foot-7 Crouch in front of the Trinidad net. Crouch leapt over Brett Sancho and headed the ball past Shaka Hislop for England's first second-half goal in a World Cup since 1998. The English had gone eight games without a second-half goal since Michael Owen scored against Romania in 1998.

Crouch's goal brought relief to England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson and his players, who seemed to be just minutes away from a shocking scoreless draw.

"It would be fair to say that you haven't seen the best of us yet," Beckham said, "but we put ourselves in a good position. We know we can play better."

England joined Germany and Ecuador, which has advanced from Group A. The English will play one of those teams in the next round.

Trinidad and Tobago, which tied Sweden 0-0 in its opener, nearly got the first goal late in the first half, but defender John Terry made an acrobatic save at the goal line. Stern John headed a ball in the middle of the box that appeared on its way into the net in the 45th minute, only to see Terry clear it off the goal line while falling down.

That was the best chance for Trinidad, which was outshot 23-7. Any shot at a draw ended when Gerrard beat Hislop with a hard, left-footed shot from the edge of the penalty area in the final moments. Gerrard had scored two goals and a penalty kick against Hislop in the FA Cup final, which Liverpool won in a shootout over West Ham on May 13.

"It was so much work. England got so much possession on the ball," said Trinidad captain Dwight Yorke, who played with Beckham at Manchester United. "It was a special moment because I have so many friends, so many memories of playing in England."

Trinidad and Tobago has one point after two games and will still have a chance to advance to the second round if it can beat Paraguay next Tuesday. England would clinch first place in Group B if Sweden failed to beat Paraguay later Thursday.

Trinidad's defensive strategy frustrated the English and quieted the crowd that had been singing and cheering loudly at the start of the game.

It was Rooney's entrance in the 58th minute that turned the tide. The 20-year-old forward broke a bone in his right foot on April 29 playing for Manchester United and wasn't expected back this soon.

But he was cleared to play by doctors earlier in the day, and combined with Lennon to bring more energy to an English team that missed so many easy chances early on. The struggles prompted the fans to chant Rooney's name in the first half, and they broke into a loud standing ovation when he came on in place of Owen.

Owen missed one of England's first-half opportunities when he shot wide all alone in the middle of the box off a rebound in the sixth minute. Crouch also blew some early chances, including one rushed shot all alone in the middle of the box that went well wide.



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