England edges Macedonia 1-0

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Peter Crouch scored his fifth goal in three matches to lead England to a 1-0 win over Macedonia on Wednesday in a European Championship qualifier.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:36 IST
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Skopje, Macedonia:

Peter Crouch scored his fifth goal in three matches to lead England to a 1-0 win over Macedonia on Wednesday in a European Championship qualifier. The Liverpool striker hit the bar with an overhead kick off a pass from Frank Lampard in the 46th minute. French referee Bertrand Layec ruled the ball had crossed the line. It was the first game abroad for Steve McClaren as England coach, following a 4-0 friendly win over Greece and a 5-0 qualifier victory against Andorra. Crouch scored two goals in each of those matches. "Just as we expected, we looked at Macedonia and knew they would be a tough. And they were," McClaren said. "It was our test tonight and the team came through. We defended magnificently and denied Macedonia any chances, and came through at the decisive moment." McClaren said he missed the goal, but praised the 6-foot-7 striker as an "opportunist". "We did our job and kept a clean sheet and that's the most important thing," McClaren said. Macedonia kept England under pressure early, earning Ilco Naumovski a booking in the first minute for harassing goalkeeper Paul Robinson. Naumovski and Goran Pandev caused most problems for the visitors, but their fast breaks produced few threatening shots. Macedonia goalkeeper Jane Nikoloski tipped over Crouch's header in the 24th and dived to clear a low shot from Lampard in the 45th. Jermain Defoe missed an open goal at close range in the 39th. Late substitute Artim Sakiri provided Macedonia's best chance in the 78th minute, firing wide across Robinson's goal. In the 83rd, Asley Cole cleared the ball off the line after a goalmouth melee nearly gave the hosts the equaliser. "I'm sorry we lost the game to an opponent who was not better than us," Macedonia coach Srecko Katanec said. Defender Rio Ferdinand recovered from a toe injury to start on Wednesday. Steven Gerrard made his 50th appearance for England but made little impact. More than 1,500 police were on hand to provide security in Skopje and at the 18,000-seat Gradski Stadium, where more than 3,000 England fans watched the game. Macedonia, under new coach Srecko Katanec, beat Estonia 1-0 in its opening Group E qualifying match. Wayne Rooney remained suspended after his red card in the World Cup quarterfinal loss to Portugal, keeping Crouch and Defoe as the starting strikers. England and Macedonia played in qualifying for Euro 2004, with the English being held to a humiliating 2-2 draw at home before winning 2-1 in Skopje. That match was tarnished by racist abuse. Wednesday's game ended without incident. (AP)

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