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FOOTBALL

Late goals see England through

story.england.jpg
Peter Crouch (white) heads England into the lead and a place in the last 16.

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NUREMBERG, Germany -- England had to endure 83 minutes of frustration against Trinidad & Tobago before Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard powered them into the 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 for Crouch to head home the first.

Then, 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.

"We never give up," said Beckham. "That's the message we give out -- that's the message we always give out.

"We knew if we kept to our game plan we'd break them down -- and the good thing about the game was that we finished strongly.

"There's always tension when you are expected to win. The plus of the game is that we got those goals in the second half which we haven't being doing lately."

Until their late charge, 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 return of Wayne Rooney.

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.

England coach Sven Goran Eriksson praised his side -- although he conceded they could have played better. "We showed a lot of patience, it's always difficult against a team who defend with nine or 10 men behind the ball every time they lose it.

"But if you don't take the chances when you create them, it will always be like this. If we'd taken those chances we created in the first half or early in the second half, it might have been a different match."

Defending their performance against the smallest nation at the finals, Eriksson said: "If we play one of the big teams in this tournament, it will not be a match like that.

"It will be completely different and we will be better and better.

"Wins give you more confidence," he said, referring to last weekend's 1-0 victory over Paraguay in their group opener.

"The tournament has just started and we've got a lot of players who haven't played competitive football for a long time."

Trinidad coach Leo Beenhakker said he had tried to stifle England's attacking plans. "We knew we could organise our game to survive for a long period," he said. "We had some small chances, yes, but that is football.

"England hit long balls at the beginning and we did a very good job defending. But they have fantastic players and I wish them all the best."

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