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Defoe points England to vital win

England defenders King and Terry deal with the threat of Poland's Rasiak in their World Cup clash

CHORZOW, Poland -- Jermain Defoe scored a breathtaking goal to set England on their way to a 2-1 victory over Poland on Wednesday and lift the pressure on coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The victory was a welcome boost coming as it did after Saturday's 2-2 draw in Austria which had left Swede Eriksson back in the firing line.

But England needed an own-goal from Arkadiusz Glowacki for victory, the defender deflecting the ball past keeper Jerzy Dudek under pressure from striker Michael Owen on 58 minutes.

During the buildup to the game, both the fans and the media were saying a loss in Katowice might spell the end of Eriksson's four-year spell in charge.

Instead the result gave England four points from two away games and in a neck-and-neck race with group leader Austria in Group 6 for places in Germany in two years time.

"I am sorry to say but I think the mass media sometime overreact," Eriksson said after the victory in Katowice. "It is very difficult to understand and the reality is a little bit different.

"We are the favorites whichever game we play in this group and if we make a draw we are criticized. I can take that but I have to keep heads in reality."

Tottenham striker Defoe's first goal for England on his first international start was a spectacular effort.

Receiving a pass from David Beckham with his back to goal, the Tottenham striker swivelled and side-stepped Jacek Kryzynowek in one continuous movement before placing the ball wide of Dudek from close range.

"Defoe couldn't have done much better," said Eriksson.

"He created chances and played very well. He's a great talent and he will always score goals."

Defoe had been brought in by Eriksson in place of Alan Smith while calamity-plagued goalkeeper David James was dropped and replaced by Tottenham's Paul Robinson.

James was axed following his blunder against Austria on Saturday which gifted the home side their second goal in the 2-2 draw.

England had squandered a 2-0 lead in that match and they were incapable of holding onto their lead again on Wednesday as three minutes after the interval, Poland were level.

Kamil Kosowski put Maciej Zurawski clean through the middle and the striker scored past Robinson for only his second international goal.

But England hit back in the 58th minute when Glowacki unwittingly deflected a cross from Ashley Cole into his own net.

From that point on, England were in charge and a return of four points from their first two matches will ease the pressure on Eriksson as he plots a path to the finals in Germany in 2006.

Three sent off

Group rivals Wales fought back from two goals down to earn a point from a 2-2 draw in a controversial qualifier against Northern Ireland after the referee sent off three players in the first 21 minutes.

Savage and Hughes exchange blows before being sent off in Cardiff

Italian official Domenico Messina turned the Group Six match into a lottery as he sent off squabbling midfielders Robbie Savage (Wales) and Michael Hughes (Northern Ireland) in the ninth minute and visiting goalscorer David Healy in the 21st.

Lawrie Sanchez's Irish side scored immediately after the first red cards with a well-placed Jeff Whitley volley.

They doubled their lead when Healy lobbed Wales keeper Paul Jones before being shown two yellow cards for overexuberant celebrations leaving his side to hang on with nine men.

Wales striker John Hartson got a goal back in the 32nd minute and substitute Robert Earnshaw equalised 15 minutes from time as the home side dominated the second spell.

But Wales manager Mark Hughes will know that after his team's disappointing 1-1 draw in Azerbaijan on Saturday they have now dropped four points in their first two qualifiers.

Inspired Austria

Inspired Austria brushed aside an unimpressive Azerbaijan team 2-0 in their World Cup qualifier on Wednesday despite also missing a string of chances.

Austria struck midway through the first half with a goal by Martin Stranzl and scored again just before the break thanks to a Roland Kollman effort that put them in control.

The Austrians had the bulk of possession, particularly in the first half, and spent much of the game camped outside Azerbaijan's area or tearing through a porous back line.

The home side's repeated attacks bore fruit in the 23rd minute when Mario Haas's pass from the left wing found VfB Stuttgart defender Stranzl unmarked in the penalty area.

He headed against the post but found the net from the rebound as he shot limply past two wrong-footed defenders.

On the stroke of halftime Emanuel Pogatetz's pass from the left found striker Kollmann who netted from close range.

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