Scrappy England net slim Skopje victory

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A DISJOINTED England were forced to come from behind against FYR Macedonia, with goals from Wayne Rooney and David Beckham giving Sven Goran Eriksson's men a 2-1 win in Skopje.

The Three Lions were, in truth, very poor and their passing was as bad as it has ever been during Eriksson's tenure.

However, England will point to a much-improved second half display which saw them equalise Georgi Hristov's opener through Rooney - now his country's youngster ever goalscorer - and then seal victory from the penalty spot with Beckham obliging in archetypal fashion.

The home side were the brightest in the opening period and they were denied a clear chance on 14 minutes when the highly impressive Artim Sakiri picked up a loose Frank Lampard pass and played a one-two with Goran Pandev - only for the linesman to rule him offside when clean through.

The Macedonia goal then arrived on 27 minutes and came down England's right when Pandev chipped a ball over Ashley Cole to the on-running Vlatko Grozdanovski - who was being played onside by Gary Neville.

Grozdanovski took the ball down and played a low ball into the area which Sol Campbell should have dealt with, but he tried to head clear from the floor and the ball bounced underneath him and into the path of Pandev, whose following effort was well blocked by John Terry.

The ball then deflected into the path of Hirstov, he shot towards goal only for David James to help the ball into the net with his feet, as he fell towards his own goal.

Despite a poor first 45 minutes, England could very well have gone into the interval level when Beckham and Gary Neville combined to send Michael Owen clear, but he was denied by a brilliant block from goalkeeper Petar Milosevski.

Eriksson introduced Emile Heskey for the below-par Lampard and the introduction of the Liverpool man would prove a telling decision.

Just eight minutes into the second period, England levelled and Rooney made history with his first strike for his country.

Beckham again created the opening as he played a long ball from the middle of the park up towards Heskey, who sublimely headed the ball back into the path of the young Everton star - who shrugged off his man marker to smash the ball into the corner from the edge of the area.

Despite the goal, Macedonia still pushed forward with West Bromwich Albion's Sakiri pulling all the strings for the home side, but they could not make another breakthrough and England claimed a second.

John Terry, who was by far England's best defender, found himself in the unfamiliar surroundings of the opposition's penalty area after a cleared set-piece found its way back into the box.

The Chelsea man attempted to turn, only for his standing leg to be taken away by Macedonia's Brazilian-born substitute Aginaldo Braga - which left Belgian referee Frank De Bleeckere with little option but to point to the spot and Beckham stepped up to hammer home and grab his 17th goal for England.

Braga then almost made amends for his penalty error when he took on Ashley Cole and broke inside the area, only to see his shot deflected over the bar by Campbell.

England could also have added to their lead late on with Heskey and Owen both going close and only excellent stops from Milosevski kept the Liverpool duo out.

A third goal would have been very harsh on Macedonia, who would argue that they were the better team - but their finishing was not equal to their general play and that allowed England to equal their post-war record of seven straight wins.

Turkey made sure England would need to come to Istanbul in October and get something if they want to book the top spot in Group 8, with victory over Liechtenstein.

The Turks, as expected, eased passed their host minnows in Vaduz and presuming England overcome them at Old Trafford on Wednesday - then the whole group will come down to the match in Turkey between the two next month.

At the Rheinpark Stadion, Tumer Metin put Turkey in front after 14 minutes and Okan Buruk made it 2-0 just before half-time.

Turkish legend Hakan Sukur completed the scoring on 50 minutes, to take Turkey back to the top of the group.

Click below for match summaries:
FYR Macedonia 1-2 England
Liechtenstein 0-3 Turkey