John Terry`s late winner ensured England took another significant step towards next year`s World Cup finals after a 2-1 win over Ukraine here on Wednesday, according to AFP.
Terry`s 84th-minute goal ensured Fabio Capello`s squad reached the half-way stage in their campaign to reach South Africa with five wins out of five in Group Six, and maintained their five-point lead over Croatia, 2-0 winners over Andorra earlier in the day.
England just about deserved the three points but the outcome hung in the balance after Andriy Shevchenko came off the bench to cancel out Peter Crouch`s first-half strike with just over quarter of an hour left.
Capello admitted his side had been below par but said the win had been testimony to their character.
"It was not a rich game, a little bit poor," the Italian said. "But the result is very important. When the referee blew the whistle I was very happy.
"We suffered a bit in the second half but we showed a lot of character and patience and I am very happy for John Terry. I think this is the reason he is the captain."
Ukrainian coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko bemoaned the poor defending from his side that had enabled England to score both their goals from crosses
"England did not exactly win the match, Ukraine helped them get the result," the former Rangers midfielder said.
Shevchenko had initially had to settle for a substitutes role as Ukraine started with a forward pair of Artem Milevskyy and Andriy Voronin.
Capello`s only selection dilemma was resolved in Aaron Lennon`s favour, the Tottenham winger`s pace preferred to the superior crossing ability of David Beckham from the right.
It was down the opposite flank however that England made initial headway, Steven Gerrard combining with Ashley Cole before finding Wayne Rooney in the box with his back to goal.
A heavy first touch sent the ball spinning into the air but the Manchester United forward made amends with an improvised overhead kick that shaved the top of the crossbar.
Rooney`s threat was underlined again when Taras Mykhalyk upended him on the edge of the area, conceding a freekick that resulted in Gerrard striking a drive inches wide.
The growing confidence in Capello`s squad was being illustrated by some slick build-up play, most of which revolved around Rooney.
But the opening goal, when it finally arrived in the 29th minute, was a more traditional English affair.
Rooney`s goalward header from Lennon`s cross secured a corner on the left. Lampard`s delivery was floated to the back post where Terry outjumped Mykhalyk to nod down for the unmarked Crouch, who hooked in a volley from three yards out.
Ukraine had offered little to suggest they could find a way back into the match, although they were unfortunate that the referee failed to spot Gareth Barry -- who had already been booked -- using his arms to check Milevskyy`s pursuit of a cross deep inside the England box.
There was a further moment of alarm for the home supporters when Anatoliy Tymoschchuk`s long-range drive skidded off the Wembley turf with sufficient pace to catch David James unawares, the ball bouncing to safety off the goalkeeper`s chest.
England, though, were generally in control with Rooney clearly in the mood to celebrate his 50th appearance for his country.
The approach of the hour mark saw both coaches make changes with Beckham replacing Lennon and Shevchenko coming on in place of the ineffective Voronin.
Beckham had the first opportunity to make an impact with a 63rd-minute free-kick which he curled on to the roof of the net.
Eleven minutes later, Shevchenko demonstrated that his predatory instincts remain in place after England`s defence made a mess of dealing with a free-kick whipped in from the right.
The ball cannoned off Glen Johnson and Shevchenko reacted faster than anyone around him to fire past James from ten yards out.
England though were to have the last word and when Gerrard knocked down a Beckham free-kick, Terry was on hand to force the ball over the line.