Lambert eclipses Rooney's return
Updated: 2013-08-16 07:50
By Reuters in London (China Daily)
England's Rickie Lambert heads to score the winning goal against Scotland during their international friendly at Wembley Stadium in London on Wednesday. England won 3-2. Eddie Keogh / Reuters
Rickie Lambert needed barely a minute on Wednesday to justify the "England international" entry on his colorful soccer CV and mark himself down as a potential member of England's World Cup squad should it qualify for Brazil.
The 31-year-old journeyman, whose goals have helped put Southampton back among England's elite, had just come off the bench to earn his first cap when he met Leighton Baines' 70th-minute corner to seal a 3-2 victory over Scotland at Wembley Stadium.
England is hardly overstocked with predatory strikers, so Lambert's spectacular rise from the backwaters of the game has given manager Roy Hodgson another option, albeit an unlikely one, as he prepares for the vital months ahead.
Hodgson was clearly delighted that his faith in Lambert, the joint highest English scorer in the Premier League last season with 15 goals, had been justified.
"He's been a breath of fresh air," Hodgson, whose team twice came from behind to beat its old rival in an absorbing friendly, said.
"He has been so enthusiastic, so happy to be part of the squad. It's wonderful story and now he's crowned it with the winning goal and he actually could have got the match ball."
Lambert said it was a moment he had dreamed of.
"I tried to play it cool as if it didn't bother me, but in reality I wanted to scream," he said.
His goal ensured England enjoyed a confidence boost ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Moldova, Ukraine, Montenegro and Poland, although Hodgson said there were still areas that his side needed to improve on.
"Without always playing our best - certainly defensively there are holes in our game that we would like to see disappear - it was a positive perormance. We worked hard and took plenty of risks with the ball and created many more opportunities than we have in past games," said the manager.
"And perhaps the most positive thing is that we've had to come from behind because that might happen to us," he said.
Initially, all eyes were on Wayne Rooney, who was playing his first match of the preseason after expressing a desire to leave Manchester United for Chelsea.
England's most experienced international striker was substituted in the second half and Hodgson was pleased with his contribution.
"He was good. We all knew before the game, it's been well-documented that this was his first competitive game and in normal circumstances you wouldn't expect a player in mid-August to be playing his first game against Scotland in front of 80,000 at Wembley," Hodgson said.
"But he wanted to play and think he got 60 valuable minutes.
"He was looking fit and chasing around and working hard, and he'll be raring to go when he rejoins his club."
(China Daily 08/16/2013 page23)