England work hard for their points
Wednesday, 30 March 2005
By Paul Saffer
 England remain at the summit of FIFA World Cup qualifying Group 6, but tenacious Azerbaijan did not make things easy for their hosts.
 Having missed a number of chances before the break, England finally scored six minutes after half-time with an acrobatic Steven Gerrard finish and David Beckham doubled the lead not long past the hour. England remain one point clear of Poland, who defeated Northern Ireland 1-0 today.
 While England named a lineup unchanged from Saturday's 4-0 win against Northern Ireland, Azerbaijan made four alterations having been defeated 8-0 in Warsaw. Samir Abdurahmanov, Zaur Hashimov, Rail Melikov and Elmar Bakhshiyev all came in.
 From the start, it was clear England, who won 1-0 in Baku, were going to dominate. But it was also obvious that Azerbaijan were determined not to suffer a second humiliation in five days. Gurban Gurbanov even went close on eight minutes, but the action was mainly at the other end.
 Dmitri Kramarenko, retained in goal for Azerbaijan, made a fine save from a close-range Michael Owen header. The striker, searching for his 30th England goal, then turned a Joe Cole cross on to the post after a deflection. Frank Lampard's curling effort from distance also struck the woodwork.
 Late in the half Owen headed wide and Lampard forced a Kramarenko save. Owen also turned in a Beckham centre but was ruled offside. Just as against Northern Ireland, though, England found an early breakthrough in the second half, Gerrard twisting to volley in a Wayne Rooney cross.
 Eleven minutes later the lead doubled as Beckham beat the Azerbaijan offside trap, chested down a Lampard through-ball and crisply side-footed a shot beyond Kramarenko. Rooney was his usual lively self, but Kramarenko blocked his volley soon after the second goal.
 Nadir Nabiyev then had a chance to pull a goal back as he was sent clear on goal, but goalkeeper Paul Robinson, on an otherwise quiet night, was off his line quickly to block. There were further English chances, but the scoreline did not change.
 England next make the short trip to Wales on 3 September, but Owen will be suspended after his second booking of the competition tonight. Azerbaijan remain bottom, but will hope to do England a favour when they welcome Poland on 4 June.