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Late charge earns England victory

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Last updated on: June 16, 2006 00:02 IST

England had to endure 83 minutes of frustration against Trinidad & Tobago before Peter Crouch and then Steven Gerrard powered them into the World Cup second round with a hard-earned 2-0 Group B win on Thursday.

Captain David Beckham floated a perfect ball from the right to the far post where 6ft 7in (2.04 metre) Crouch headed the first goal powerfully into the net.

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With a minute remaining Gerrard made sure with a left-foot drive from the edge of the box.

The three points followed a scrappy 1-0 win over Paraguay on Saturday and ensures England will finish first or second, depending on their final match with Sweden on Tuesday.

Until their late charge in the last seven minutes, England had looked likely to follow in the path of the Swedes who had proved unable to break down the Caribbean outsiders.

England were boosted by the long-awaited return of Wayne Rooney fom a broken foot.

His 58th minute arrival, met with loud cheers by England's fans, came hours after two medical experts had pronounced him to fit to play after a faster than expected recovery from a broken foot.

England looked sharper with Rooney and fellow substitute Aaron Lennon on the pitch, but their finishing remained poor and the well organised Soca Warriors defended in numbers attempting to get a draw.

Striker Michael Owen, who lasted only 55 minutes against Paraguay and is far from his best after long-term injury, ballooned an early chance when Frank Lampard's shot was only parried by Shaka Hislop.

England, looking much better than on Saturday, kept stringing their passes together but could only create half-chances against some determined defending.

Crouch nearly tipped the ball past Hislop at the far post after a Joe Cole cross. Beckham aimed a series of corners at John Terry to no avail and the Warriors' defence also charged down his free kicks.

England squandered two great chances before the break, though, when Lampard skied an Owen cut back from close range and Crouch fluffed a volley from Beckham's inviting cross, his shot heading towards the corner flag.

England fans were still chanting for Rooney to come on when Terry spared his team's blushes just before the break by clearing off the line after an aerial duel between Rio Ferdinand and Stern John.

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