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Rooney on mark as England top group

Wayne Rooney lived up to his top billing in Donetsk as he scored the goal which sent England into a Euro 2012 quarter-final meeting with Italy in Kiev on Sunday.

It was not quite the equal of Pele's sublime header in the 1970 World Cup final -- but after comparing his star man to the brilliant Brazilian, manager Roy Hodgson would have been delighted nonetheless.

In truth, having already failed to take a glaring first-half chance, Rooney could not miss this one as Ukraine 'keeper Andriy Pyatov failed to gather a dangerous low cross from Steven Gerrard which took two deflections. From barely a yard, Rooney scored his 29th England goal, one behind Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney and Alan Shearer, who are joint fifth in the all-time list. Now England must hope their talisman quickly joins them as the scent of glory is now in English nostrils, even if the path is barred not just by Italy, but Germany as well.

Not that England strolled through this game. The game had its uncomfortable moments, not least the controversy that once again erupted over a ball that crossed the line, but none of the officials saw.

For all Hodgson's assurances to the contrary in recent days, it was evident that after just 37 minutes' action in 44 days Rooney was lacking sharpness.

The hoped for combination with Manchester United team-mate Danny Welbeck never materialised and his passing went astray too often.

This would have been forgiven if Rooney had turned Ashley Young's deep cross into the net. It was a brilliant move -- started by John Terry -- until the final execution, .

But three minutes after the restart Pyatov failed to clear one of those teasing Gerrard crosses that have been a hallmark of his time in Ukraine. From roughly a yard, Rooney nodded in.

The band, who had been banned on their last visit to Donetsk, filled the noise vacuum created by the silencing of their hosts and when the big screens at either end of the stadium flashed up news of Sweden's goal in Kiev a few minutes later, English cheers grew.

They would have been subdued had the goal-line technology, due to be voted on by FIFA next month, already been installed. But, just as Fabio Capello cursed Frank Lampard's goal not being awarded in Bloemfontein two years ago, so Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin now has reason to lament.

To the naked eye, in real time, it was difficult to be certain whether John had Terry hacked Marko Devic's half-blocked shot away before it crossed the line although the official staning five yards away on the endline had a great view.

Within 60 seconds, all those millions watching around the world on TV knew it was, the fans in the stadium only left in the dark because the wise decision was taken not to show it to them again.

Irish Independent