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Lambert is England hero again
If Rickie Lambert and his family have been considering any holiday plans for next summer, they might want to put them on hold.
The way the Saints striker’s dream England career is heading, he may soon be making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Brazil instead.
Lambert marked his first ever start for his country with a goal and two exquisite assists, as Roy Hodgson’s men triumphed 4-0 against Moldova in last night’s World Cup qualifier, at Wembley.
Just a few weeks removed from his fairytale debut, when he scored the winner against Scotland with his first touch, the 31-year-old looked even more the part as an international forward here.
Hodgson came into this game with major injury problems in attack, owing to the absence of Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge, yet Lambert ensured England never missed them.
His menacing performance in attack – not only scoring, but linking the play superbly – was too much for the overmatched Moldovans to cope with.
Yes, the opposition might have been weak, but many players have been given a chance for England against such teams only to wilt.
Yet here was Lambert; bold, confident and threatening.
The Saints forward knows that, at his age, his England career will probably be a relatively short-lived one. But he looks determined to take his chance and make the most of the opportunity.
He twice nearly scored in the opening minutes, heading a Steven Gerrard corner over the bar from six yards, before firing a ferocious volley wide from double that distance.
It only took until the 26th minute for his moment to finally arrive, though. Gerrard had already driven home from 25 yards to put England in front, and Lambert doubled the advantage with a header from close range after Moldova keeper Stanislav Namasco had made a mess of keeping out Theo Walcott’s angled shot.
A simple finish it might have been, but it was a goal that owed much to Lambert’s alertness in the box.
Having scored, England’s number 11 then turned provider for the next two.
After dropping deep to collect the ball in first-half added time, he produced a beautiful lofted pass to pick out the run of Danny Welbeck, whose first touch took him past the keeper before his second saw him convert.
Then, five minutes after the restart, he found the United striker again with a perfectly-weighted pass through that Welbeck finished magnificently, dinking the ball over the keeper.
Lambert has consistently displayed an impressive range of passing for his club, and he will no doubt have been thrilled to showcase it to others who might not be so aware.
He left the field in the 70th minute to a standing ovation, being substituted for James Milner. With Welbeck suspended for Tuesday’s crucial trip to Ukraine, Rooney out, and Welbeck seriously doubtful, Lambert may well likely be needed again.
It is quite something that he is now being taken off in an England match to protect him.
Perhaps now the slightly patronising tone with which some had greeted his England call-ups will subside. For, last night, Rickie Lambert not only proved that he firmly belongs in the international arena, he also strengthened his case as a serious contender for the World Cup in Brazil.
ENGLAND: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Cole (Baines ht); Gerrard, Wilshere (Barkley 60), Lampard; Walcott, Lambert (Milner 70), Welbeck.
Subs: Ruddy, Forster, Smalling, Carrick, Cleverley, Defoe, Young, Sterling, Townsend.
MOLDOVA: Namasco; Armas, Golovatenco, Epureanu, Ionita (Onica 19), Antoniuc, Dedov, Georghiev (Pascenco 85), Bulgaru (Suvorov 58), Bordian, Sidorenco.
Subs: Pascenco, Cebanu, Racu, Cebotaru, Doros, Boestean, Erhan, Grossu, Andronic.
Referee: Ivan Kruzliak (Slovakia).
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