The game was goalless at half-time, but by the 62nd minute England were four ahead thanks to strikes from Joe Cole and Michael Owen, a Chris Baird own goal and a deflected Frank Lampard effort - just reward for a match the home side dominated against their near neighbours.
 With Sol Campbell injured, John Terry partnered Rio Ferdinand in England's central defence. Cole's form for Chelsea FC was rewarded with a start on the left of midfield in an otherwise familiar lineup. Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez - who yesterday signed a new contract lasting until the end of 2007 - promoted Tommy Doherty to the midfield and welcomed back Damien Johnson and Stuart Elliott from injury.
 England began the game dominating possession, Terry forcing an early save from Maik Taylor with a header, and the goalkeeper denied Owen on 18 minutes after the striker was sent clear by Lampard. Two minutes later a Wayne Rooney header bounced on to the post, and Taylor then tipped over a strong shot by the Manchester United FC forward.
 The next stop came from a curling David Beckham free-kick, and on 40 minutes the busy Taylor turned a Lampard effort wide as Northern Ireland kept the scores level at the break. However, within 61 seconds of the restart Cole intercepted a pass on the edge of the visitors' box and bent a neat shot past Taylor.
 Five minutes later Lampard entered the area with a strong run and the ball broke to Owen, who pounced to make it 2-0. Barely had the celebrations ended when Rooney, showing immense power and control, cut in from the by-line and his cross was turned in by Baird under pressure from Owen.
 It was four just past the hour as Lampard's long shot deflected in off the head of Colin Murdock. Lampard nearly struck again in the 72nd minute but hit the crossbar after being set up by substitute Kieron Dyer. England did not add to their lead, as they completed their 45th win in 60 meetings with Northern Ireland.