Belarus beat England 2-1

Belarus defeated England 2-1 in a World Cup preparation match on Thursday.

updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Belarus defeated England 2-1 in a World Cup preparation match on Thursday. However, England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson said the game was "much more positive than negative". He cited Michael Owen's return and the performances of teenagers Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott as high points. Owen didn't score, but was involved in England's 35th-minute goal in the unofficial 'B' international. He headed Stewart Downing's ball on to the bar, which bounced back for Jermaine Jenas to score on the rebound. "I felt fine, the foot felt fine," said Owen, who was replaced after 60 minutes by Walcott. Before Thursday, he had only played 30 minutes of soccer this year. Exciting game Belarus equalised in the 50th minute. Sampdoria's Vitaly Kutuzov scored into an empty net with substitute goalkeeper Robert Green lying on the ground after injuring himself attempting a goal kick. Green, England's third-choice goalkeeper for Germany, entered the game five minutes earlier. He was removed on a stretcher, his hand over his face, and Scott Carson - who was on England's standby list for the World Cup - entered. Eriksson said Green had a bad groin injury and "almost for sure" was out of the World Cup. He said discussions would be made on a replacement. Warm welcome Walcott, England's 17-year-old rookie, was welcomed with chants of "Theo" from the crowd of 22,032 at Madejski Stadium. He showed little anxiety playing in front of Eriksson for the first time. With 10 minutes left, he sent a powerful shot that Belarus substitute goalkeeper Vasily Khomoutovsky nearly fumbled. Walcott "showed that he's ready for it, not shy at all" said Eriksson, who also was full of praise for Lennon. "He will be useful," Eriksson said. "One against one, he's exceptional, quick feet, pace." Taking lead Lennon caused Belarus problems and Sergei Omelyanchuyk was sent off in the 75th minute with two yellow cards in two minutes for fouls on the 19-year-old Tottenham midfielder. But Belarus took the lead in the 81st minute when Sergei Kornilenko outran the England defence and beat Carson. With Wayne Rooney struggling to recover from a broken foot in time for the World Cup, Owen and Peter Crouch appear as England's main strikers. Thursday was only the fourth time the two had played together. Owen looked fit but was largely isolated, with his only chance in the first half kicked away by goalkeeper Yury Zhevnov at close range. Crouch had the better chances -- a long range volley caught by Zhevnov and an awkward shot over the bar. Impressive performance It was Lennon, playing in David Beckham's spot on the right of midfield, who impressed. He showed deft ball control and distribution and pace and was named man of the match. He sent one curling shot just over the bar and provided a cross that Crouch put in the net, but was ruled offside. "You have to look past the result," Lennon said. "It was my first game for England and a few others were making their debuts. You've got to take the good things out of it". Shaky defence It was in defence that England looked shaky. Bayern Munich midfielder Owen Hargreaves started at right back, with Jamie Carragher joining Sol Campbell in the center and Campbell's Arsenal teammate Ashley Cole at left back. Most of the first team, including captain David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Robinson and John Terry, watched the game from the stands. Lineups: England: David James (Robert Green, 46; Scott Carson, 53), Owen Hargreaves, Ashley Cole, Michael Carrick, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell, Aaron Lennon, Jermaine Jenas (Joe Cole, 61), Peter Crouch (Jermain Defoe, 78), Michael Owen (Theo Walcott, 61), Stewart Downing (Michael Dawson, 78). Belarus: Yury Zhevnov (Vasily Khomoutovsky, 46), Aleksandr Kulchy, Dmitry Lentsevich, Sergei Omelyanchuk, Sergei Shtanyuk, Vladimir Korytko, Aleksandr Yurevich (Aliaksandr Shahoika, 60), Vitaly Bulyga (Sergei Kornilenko, 46), Maksim Romashchenko (Nikolai Kashevsky, 73), Timofei Kalachev (Aliaksei Pankavets, 79), Vitaly Kutuzov (Artem Kontsevoy, 64). (AP)