|Rooney muscles through [GALLO/GETTY]
After holding England to nil-all at half time, Kazakhstan’s spirited resistance could not continue to hold off the might of the home team at Wembley Stadium, with England eventually running away to a 5-1 victory.
England finally broke through in the 52nd minute with a towering header from stand-in captain, Rio Ferdinand, which galvanised an anxious crowd before a Kazakhstan own-goal gave England a 2-0 lead after 65 minutes.
A poor defensive error from Ashley Cole allowed Kukeyev ample to time to choose his spot, firing low beyond David James to pull one back for Kazakhstan in the 68th minute.
The Wembley crowd seemed stunned and was more intent on booing Cole for the next 10 minutes than supporting their team, before two goals from Rooney in the 77th and 86th minutes and a cool finish from Defoe in the 90th minute, gave England a their third successive win since World Cup qualifying began.
The 5-1 score line may be a fair reflection of the relative strengths of the two teams, but serves little to reflect the uncertainty of the outcome for much of the contest.
England were dominating the first twenty minutes with Walcott getting free down the right but they lacked width thereafter.
England had a few shots blocked and shot wide from outside the area, but tellingly Alexandr Mokin, the Kazakhstan keeper did not have a shot to save in the first half.
It was expected that Kazakhstan would drop ten men behind the ball from the outset, but they set up in a 4-4-2 and were no deeper in defence than more fancied opposition teams who have visited Wembley recently.
England couldn’t capitalise on their dominant possession, with the final ball all too often lacking the required control or accuracy.
Rooney was struggling to get involved as much as he likes wide on the left while Gerrard and Lampard were linking up adequately without delivering a decisive blow.
Barry’s services sitting in front of the back four would perhaps be more required against stronger opposition and so England manager Fabio Capello replaced Barry with Shaun Wright-Phillips in the second half resumption pushing Rooney up front to partner the ever-industrious Heskey giving England more width with Wright-Phillips on the left and Walcott on the right.
It was Wright-Phillips’ strong run cutting back into the area which lead to the corner from which Ferdinand, unmarked at the back post, headed in the first goal.
England’s second goal also came from a set piece with Ashley Cole’s attacking run down the left side earning England a free kick that Lampard curled into traffic resulting in a headed own goal from Alexandr Kuchma.
Kazakhstan’s lack of fitness became evident in the last fifteen minutes as England were able to control possession.
|Zhambyi Kukeyev celebrates his goal [GALLO/GETTY]
Temporary Kazakhstan manager Bernd Storck later commented on the lack of fitness of his young team.
"Endurance…they have no power…we have a big problem in Kazakhstan.
"After 70 minutes we have no endurance to play against a team like England".
Rooney having worked hard all game finally got his just rewards and continued his recent goal-scoring form by heading in a Wes Brown cross from six yards out.
Beckham, whose every touch was cheered by the partisan crowd, supplied a trademark cross for the fourth goal resulting in a goal mouth scramble involving Upson to Rooney who squeezed it through under a defender.
Last minute substitute Defoe then provided a clinical finish to make it 5-1 from a through ball from Heskey, showing the kind of form that is keeping Michael Owen out of Capello’s England team.
|Rio Ferdinand heads it home [GALLO/GETTY]
Defoe admitted he never underestimated Kazakhstan.
"We knew it was going to be a difficult game," he said.
"… they passed the ball well in the first half…but getting a goal early in the second half was really crucial for us…after that it opened up a little bit more," he continued.
Defoe praised Capello and talked about the raised confidence of the England team.
"Everyone is confident…everyone is buzzing," he said.
"We are just looking forward to the next game".
England’s goalkeeper David James also embraced Capello’s regime.
"Capello (has) galvanised the side into being a confident team".
James also didn’t downplay Kazakhstan’s contribution to the game, taking care to point out the performance of their goalkeeper who he believed kept the scoreline a lot lower than it should have been.
"We didn’t anticipate it would be a walkover," he said.
"In the first half they were quite stubborn and looked dangerous on the counter-attack".
"In the second half, if anything we didn’t respect them enough and let them back into the game".
England now face Belarus on 15 October and Kazakhstan's next game is against Belarus in early April 2009.