Belfast Telegraph

Jermain Defoe sinks treble as England beat Bulgaria

England 4 Bulgaria 0: Jermain Defoe fired England to a comfortable win over Bulgaria with his first international hat-trick.

Defoe put off a groin operation that threatened to rule him out of England's opening Euro 2012 opener and gained perfect reward in a deserved win at Wembley that eased some of the pressure that around Capello.

It took the striker's tally to 15 goals in 44 games. More importantly it moves England straight to the top of Group G.

Another three points in Switzerland on Tuesday and the England boss can start to go about his work in some security again.

He will travel to Basle without Michael Dawson though after the Tottenham man suffered an awful-looking knee injury.

However, after his World Cup trauma, Capello has started to make good decisions again.

Aside from Defoe's match-winning contribution, Theo Walcott and Joe Hart were outstanding and James Milner looked far more comfortable on the left flank than he did in South Africa.

It will also have pleased him that a substitute, Adam Johnson, scored England's third goal and broke his own international duck on his third appearance.

Capello may have selected seven of the side chiefly responsible for the debacle against Germany in Bloemfontein but there was a definite freshness about his team.

Two of the four who had no part in the Germany match, Hart and Walcott, were among the better performers.

England could not have made a better start.

Wayne Rooney's pass released Ashley Cole whose initial shot was parried by Nikolay Mihaylov.

The Chelsea man was on to the rebound in a flash and when he turned it back for Defoe, the player who by rights should be recovering from groin surgery provided an excellent first-time finish.

Walcott's pace caused Bulgaria huge difficulties during a frantic English attacking display. James Milner had a shot deflected wide and Defoe just failed to connect with a low Walcott cross.

The only time England found themselves in trouble was their own fault, when Glen Johnson's attempt to turn Ivelin Popov's cross away for a corner instead threatened a horrendous own goal until Hart plunged across to his right to make a vital save.

Rooney is still struggling to find his touch and at times looked well off the pace. But a sublime chip five minutes into the second half

was a reminder of the talent he possesses and Mihaylov needed to make a fingertip save to deny the Manchester United man.

Three direct assists are not to be sniffed at either, even if his international goal drought now extends to 11 games.

Dawson's horrible injury followed. Slow motion replays showed the defender's left knee buckling under him.

As he was carried off in obvious pain, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that he will not be back on a football pitch again for some considerable time, which is heartbreaking for him, and devastating for Harry Redknapp given his opportunity to bring in a replacement ended three days ago.

There followed a pivotal 15 seconds, which started with an excellent Hart reaction save to repel Martin Petrov.

England countered immediately and a flowing move involving Gareth Barry, Steven Gerrard and Rooney ended with Defoe firing through Mihaylov's legs.

Johnson's strike eased England further clear and paved the way for Defoe to complete his momentous three-timer four minutes from time.

The Tottenham striker suffered some kind of twinge as he celebrated and was immediately replaced by Ashley Young.

Capello was left to hope the recovery will be swift, and Defoe confirmed within minutes of the final whistle that he will be ready to face the Swiss.

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