Coimbra: Wayne Rooney helped himself to two goals and a place in history as England got their Euro 2004 campaign back on track with an impressive 3-0 win over 10-man Switzerland here on Thursday.
Rooney’s 23rd and 75th minute strikes made the 18-year-old the youngest ever player to score in the finals of a European Championships. They were also the perfect tonic for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s squad after the agony of the last-gasp defeat by France in their group B opener.
Two of England’s goals came after Swiss defender Bernt Haas was sent-off for a second bookable offence in the 60th minute.
Steven Gerrard completed the morale-boosting win eight minutes from the end to leave Switzerland facing the daunting task of beating France in their remaining group match if they are to have any chance of advancing to the quarter-finals.
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson paid handsome tribute to the astonishing teenager.
“Absolutely fantastic,” purred the Swede. “Two beautiful goals. He worked really hard. To be 18-years-old and put in that performance it is incredible.”
Such a convincing win had not looked on the cards as Switzerland asked the more serious questions in the opening exchanges.
Twice in the first quarter of an hour the left boot of Hakan Yakin sent dangerous inswinging free-kicks into the six-yard box, forcing Sol Campbell to head clear over his own bar.
With both John Terry and Frank Lampard fortunate to escape bookings for fouls on Stephane Chapuisat and Alexander Frei respectively, it was not just the 30-degree temperature that was making England feel the heat.
It was not until the 18th minute, when Lampard caught Hakan Yakin lingering on the ball dangerously close to his own area, that England got their first glimmer of a chance.
The Chelsea midfielder’s attempt to play Rooney in was slightly overhit, allowing Jorg Stiel to come off his line and take the ball off the toes of the Everton forward, whose lunge for the ball resulted in a booking.
A minute later, Frei spurned an even better chance to put Switzerland ahead. A deep cross from left-back Christoph Spycher found the striker in space at the back post but his header was directed wide of the post.
The let-off appeared to galvanise England into the switch of tempo that led to their opening goal.
It was one of Gerrard’s trademark forward surges to the right hand edge of the Swiss box that laid the foundations. Gerrard’s good work and a neat touch from Gary Neville created the opening for David Beckham to fire a pinpoint cross to Michael Owen beyond the back post.
Owen duly drew two Swiss defenders out of position before chipping the ball to Rooney, who was left with the simplest of headed finishes from close range.
England were briefly dominant in the wake of the goal but it was the Swiss who finished the half the stronger.
After a strong run to the edge of the area, Frei might have done better than hit his shot straight at David James and the England goalkeeper was equally relieved to see Hakan Yakin’s effort curl narrowly wide after Lampard conceded an indirect free-kick 20 yards out.
Switzerland picked up where they left off after the interval, midfielder Raphael Wicky flashing a shot narrowly wide. But with the sapping effect of the late afternoon heat taking its toll, the sting gradually went out of their attacks as England tightened their grip on the match.
Any doubt about the outcome disappeared 15 minutes from the end after Owen Hargreaves hoisted a clearance from the edge of his own area deep into Swiss territory.
Substitute Darius Vassell was first to the bouncing ball, which he held up long enough for Rooney to arrive and crash a fierce low drive into the net courtesy of a double ricochet off the post and the back of Stiel.
Gerrard completed a morale-boosting win with eight minutes left after Gary Neville ran on to Beckham’s astute pass and sent in a low cross. Gerrard did the rest by squeezing a side-footed shot between Stiel and the post from an acute angle.
England: David James; Gary Neville, John Terry, Sol Campbell, Ashley Cole; David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes (Owen Hargreaves 70); Wayne Rooney (Kieron Dyer 83), Michael Owen (Darius Vassell 72).
Switzerland: Joerg Stiel; Bernt Haas, Patrick Mueller, Murat Yakin, Christoph Spycher; Raphael Wicky, Fabio Celestini (Ricardo Cabanas 54), Benjamin Huggel; Hakan Yakin (Johann Vonlanthen 84); Stephane Chapuisat (Daniel Gygax 46), Alexander Frei.
Referee: Valentin Ivanov (Russia).