Well this certainly hasn't happened in a long time...England fielded an unchanged side in two consecutive matches! England notched up another three valuable points tonight, which is just as well as Croatia (leading Group E) are three points clear of England, who are in second place going into the October matches. Prior to this game both Owen Hargreaves and Frank Lampard returned to their respective clubs for treatment to injuries, however given how well England had played last weekend, it's unknown if they would have started tonight's game had they been fit.
England were on the scoresheet in only seven minutes thanks to Michael Owen. Gareth Barry sent in a corner which was missed by one England player's head, but the ball fell to Owen's feet, who from ten yards out, struck the ball in off the post to give the host side an early lead. In the nineteenth minute Russia thought they had equalized only the goal was disallowed when the referee ruled that Zurianov had handled the ball, but it seemed a very harsh decision.
In the twenty-fifth minute Joe Cole unleashed a 25-yard shot which Malafeev, Russia's third choice goalkeeper, punched away. Michael Owen scored his second goal of the evening in the 26th minute, and truly marked his comeback to his goalscoring ways after a long injury, with three goals in his first two starts this season for his country. Emile Heskey managed to flick-on the ball to Owen who hit the ball into the top corner, thus giving England a comfortable lead going into the break, although the home side could not afford to sit back as Russia were threatening and England could not fail to take full points from this match.
Three minutes into the second half and Sychev almost pulled a goal back for the visitors, but his attempt which went across England's goal, was just inches wide of the target. Russia had a sustained period of attacking football before England sealed the match in the 84th minute with a goal from Rio Ferdinand. This was a hard fought three points and much deserved by the England team. It will hopefully give the players confidence as they head to Russia next month to play on a plastic pitch, which is after their meeting with Estonia at Wembley.
Owen's second goal in this match took his goal tally for England to 40. Only Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker accompany him in having scored 40 goals (and more) for England. Quite a feat.
Robinson #1, A Cole #3, Ferdinand #5, Richards #2, Terry #6 - Captain, Barry #7, J Cole #11 (P Neville 88 mins - #14), Gerrard #4, Wright-Phillips #8, Heskey #9 (Crouch 80 mins - #18), Owen #10 (Downing 90 mins - #16).
Subs Not Used: James #13, Brown #12, Johnson #17, Smith #15. (Full Squad)
Malafeev #16, Aniukov #22 (Kerzhakov 80 mins - #11), A Berezutsky #27, V Berezutsky #2, Ignashevich #5, Bilyaletdinov #15, Semshov #20 (Bystrov 40 mins - #23), Zhirkov #18, Zurianov #17, Arshavin #10, Sychev #26 (Pavluchenko 63 mins - #19).
Subs Not Used: Shunu #12, Kolodin #25, Torbinsky #7, Pogrebniak #13.
England Goals: Owen (7 & 31 mins), Ferdinand (84 mins).
England Caution: J Cole (78 mins)
Russia Caution: None.
Referee: Martin Hansson (Sweden)