Five-star England qualify in fine style

<strong>ENGLAND (5)</strong> vs <strong>CROATIA (1)</strong><br /><br />FABIO CAPELLO hailed the &ldquo;best performance&rdquo; of his reign as manager after his England side booked their ticket to the World Cup finals in South Africa next summer in emphatic style.<br /><br />Two goals apiece from midfield duo Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard and a fifth from Wayne Rooney put the seal on a thumping victory to maintain England&rsquo;s 100 per cent qualifying record.<br /><br />It also exacted sweet revenge for Croatia&rsquo;s victory on their last visit to Wembley which put paid to England&rsquo;s Euro 2008 campaign.<br /><br />In truth, this was a totally unrecognisable Croatia side to the one which triumphed on that dreadful rainy night in November 2008, but then again, this is a far different England side also. The Three Lions took the game by the scruff of the neck from the very first minute and never let up, displaying the kind of &ldquo;Englishness&rdquo; which Croatian boss Slaven Bilic had said England had lost under the Italian&rsquo;s reign.<br /><br />Capello, however, was more interested in the ruthlessness of his side&rsquo;s performance, which will no doubt raise a few eyebrows in the build-up to South Africa. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m very happy. We&rsquo;ve achieved our target early,&rdquo; Capello said. &ldquo;I think this was the best performance under me. We played fast, pressed the ball and our movement was fantastic. The first 20 minutes were fantastic and we were very compact. The performance tonight was very important and we did everything which we tried in training. Now we can talk about South Africa.&rdquo;<br /><br />Unbeknown to Capello, the goalless stalemate between Belarus and Ukraine meant England only needed a draw to secure qualification, but judging by the way his side started, a win was the only desired result.<br /><br />Just eight minutes in, Lennon, preferred to Shaun Wright-Phillips and David Beckham on the right, danced into the box, inviting the challenge from veteran Croatian left-back Josip Simunic and Lampard stroked home coolly from the penalty spot.<br /><br />Twelve months ago it was the pace of Theo Walcott which tore through the Croatian defence in the 4-1 win in Zagreb, but this time it was the equally-nimble Lennon doing the damage in the injured Arsenal man&rsquo;s absence.<br /><br />Ten minutes later, his cross from the right found Gerrard free on the back post and the Liverpool man headed home into the far corner.<br /><br />Only stand-in Croatia keeper Vedran Runje prevented England extending their lead further, saving well in particular from Gareth Barry&rsquo;s 25-yard drive. But England didn&rsquo;t have to wait long for the killer third goal &ndash; the marauding Glen Johnson crossing from the right and Lampard heading home firmly for his sixth goal in seven internationals.<br /><br />Not to be outdone by his midfield partner, Gerrard notched his second seven minutes later, finishing off a fine move with a looping header from Rooney&rsquo;s lofted cross.<br /><br />Arsenal striker Eduardo, jeered by the Wembley crowd throughout for his alleged dive against Celtic, grabbed a goal back for the visitors with 18 minutes left before Rooney capitalised on a wild sliced clearance from Runje to round off a memorable night.