Mon, Jun 06, 2011 - Page 20 News List

England held at Wembley; Keane enters record books

AFP, PARIS

Portugal’s Pepe, right, vies for the ball with Norway’s Morten Gamst Pedersen, left, John Arne Riise, second left, and Brede Hangeland during their Euro 2012 qualifying match on Saturday in Lisbon.

Photo: Reuters

England were held by Switzerland at Wembley and veteran Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane rewrote the record books in Euro 2012 qualifying action on Saturday.

Keane became the first player from the UK or Ireland to score 50 senior international goals when he bagged a double in his country’s 2-0 win over Macedonia in Skopje.

The previous benchmark of 49 was held by Manchester United and England great Sir Bobby Charlton.

Keane plundered his 50th and 51st international goals in the eighth and 37th minutes.

Macedonia were left to rue Ivan Trickovski’s missed 40th minute penalty when his spot-kick hit the crossbar.

Ireland, level on points with Russia, 3-1 winners over Armenia with Tottenham’s Roman Pavlyuchenko getting a hat-trick, and Slovakia, who beat Andorra 1-0, edged to the top of Group B on goal difference.

Fabio Capello’s England held on to their Group G lead, but only on goal difference after being held to a 2-2 stalemate by Switzerland.

Errors by goalkeeper Joe Hart threatened to embarrass England who had their work cut out after going behind via goals from Swiss midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta.

England fought back with a Frank Lampard penalty and a second half strike from substitute Ashley Young.

Their closest rivals Montenegro could have gone top of the group later, but a 1-1 draw with Bulgaria in Podgorica kept them second.

Capello insisted that despite giving his players a holiday following the end of the Premier League season fatigue had played a significant part in his team’s performance.

“The difference between the two sides was that we lacked energy, always the same problem,” the Italian said. “The Swiss were fresher. However, we ended up with a good result, I got a good reaction from the players in the second half, but as always at this stage of the season we were without energy.”

Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld was satisfied with a point, but admitted he was disappointed his side were unable to defend a two-goal lead.

In Lisbon, Portugal gave their hopes of emerging from Group H a major boost with a 1-0 win over Norway.

Helder Postiga scored the crucial goal in the 53rd minute to move the Portuguese up level on 10 points with Norway and Denmark, 2-0 winners over Iceland in Reykjavik, with five games played.

Shock Euro 2004 winners Greece maintained their slender grip on Group F with a 3-1 win over Malta at Piraeus.

That fourth win out of six qualifiers put them on 14 points, one clear of Croatia and Israel, who clinched a precious three points in Riga with a 2-1 win over Latvia.

The visitors dominated the first half with goals from Yossi Benayoun and Tal Ben-Haim’s penalty, with Aleksandrs Cauna giving Latvia brief hopes of a comeback with a spot-kick of his own, but they were unable to find an equalizer.

In other Group H action, Denmark cruised past Iceland 2-0 in Reykjavik.

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