Football: ANDHORRA; EURO 2008 CRUNCH NIGHT... Gerrard twin strike can't save England blushes as nightmare grows for Mac Andorra 0 England 3.
STEVEN GERRARD saved Steve McClaren's job as England manager on a wet and miserable night in Barcelona's Olympic Stadium.
For how long, it remains to be seen, but the two goals scored by the Liverpool captain from his preferred position in central midfield steered England to a victory which saved them from humiliation.
The result was welcomed by the England supporters but this was another wretched performance.
So wretched that for much of this matchMcClaren looked to be heading for the history books as the manager of the worst England performance of alltime.
Losing 1-0 to the United States at the World Cup in 1950 is generally regarded as England's darkest moment.
But even that defeat would have paled if England had drawn against a nation with a population which would have fitted inside Old Trafford.
During the first half the travelling England supporters once more summed up the current disillusion which swirls around the national side.
"What a load of rubbish" and "You're not fit to wear the shirt" were chanted and were deserved.
England, just as they had been in the goalless draw against Israel in Tel Aviv, had no ideas and imagination.
Yes, Andorra, 163 in the FIFA rankings, were not afraid to mix it.
They were baiting Wayne Rooney verbally from the kick-off, clearly aware of his suspect temperament.
They slowed down the action at every turn. Arguing and feigning injury is a despicable way to play football.
They made it as difficult as possible for England. But they were teachers and plumbers and insurance salesmen. Their top earner makes pounds 300 per week against the pounds 150,000 which John Terry wants from Chelsea.
They should have been swept aside but England under McClaren are a rag-tag of a team. Remember, Andorra were a team who had been beaten 7-0 by Croatia and 5-0 by England in more confident times.
That puts this McClaren victory in perspective.
But at least there were signs in the second half that McClaren could influence matters as a match progresses.
England certainly came out after the interval with more urgency.
Their movement was swifter and when Gerrard smashed home the opener it was a strike with genuine quality from a man playing in the position he prefers in central midfield.
Relief oozed through the white shirts. Rooney was yellow carded and then substituted just after the hour by Jermain Defoe and England improved. They looked more alert, played with more width and started to deliver.
Gerrard's second was a swift interchange and a precise finish and Defoe showed his sharpness to get in a shot which the Andorra keeper palmed for David Nugent to smash home on the line.
Yet on the final whistle the smattering of boos told the real story.
The England fans are not convinced this manager can take the team to Euro 2008. But for now McClaren is out of jail.
The escape, however, is far from complete.
After the win, McClaren said: "I can understand the frustration and the disappointment against Israel but we didn't lose and we came here and got three points.
"It is still in our hands, there is a long way to go, there is work to do.
"But what I say to the fans is stick with the players, they are giving it their all and they are out there doing it."
PICK OF THE BUNCH: Liverpool's Steven Gerrard helps ease the pressure on England manager Steve McClaren as he fires in the opener against Andorra; WELL DONE SON: Steven Gerrard celebrates hisgoal with Rooney
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|Publication:||Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)|
|Date:||Mar 29, 2007|
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