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Sunday, Sept. 5, 2010

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Completing the trick: England's Jermain Defoe (center) watches his shot fly past Bulgarian goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov for his third goal in their Euro 2012 qualifier at Wembley on Friday night. England won 4-0. AP PHOTO

Hat trick by Defoe gives England win

WEMBLEY, England (AP) Jermain Defoe scored a hat trick as England opened European Championship qualifying on Friday by coasting to a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria in a display of attacking efficiency missing during a woeful World Cup campaign.

Defoe's first goal into an unguarded net came just three minutes into England's first competitive match since being eliminated by Germany in the second round in South Africa.

The Tottenham striker, who was initially ruled out of the match with a groin injury, added another in the 61st when he slipped the ball between Bulgaria goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov's legs.

And Defoe curled in the third in the 86th, two minutes after substitute Adam Johnson marked his first competitive England appearance with a goal.

"People know what I'm good at — I'll always try to move and when I get a chance try to take it," Defoe said. "When you play with a partner up front it takes time to jell but Wayne Rooney is a great player and if I make the runs I know he'll find me."

While Rooney still hasn't scored for England since last September, the Manchester United striker played a part in all four goals.

"I played Rooney in a position different than usual and he did very well," England manager Fabio Capello said. "He had to stay just in front of the two central midfielders and from this position to go forward and to be free."

A series of superb second-half saves by Joe Hart were crucial in securing a win that should ease the pressure on Capello ahead of Tuesday's second Euro 2012 qualifier at Switzerland on Tuesday.

Hart was one of four changes to the side that was routed 4-1 by Germany in Bloemfontein in June, with the Manchester City goalkeeper replacing the 40-year-old David James as Capello fulfills his pledge to bring through fresh talent.

There was a new central defensive partnership of Michael Dawson and Phil Jagielka, with John Terry injured and Matthew Upson dropped. But Dawson's first full start was cut short early in the second half when he was carried off with a leg injury.

The injury last week to Frank Lampard enabled Steven Gerrard to occupy his favored central midfield berth, while the Chelsea midfielder's starting place was taken by Theo Walcott.

Meanwhile, World Cup champion Spain was among the traditional powers to open qualifying with a victory, while France was further humiliated by a 1-0 home loss to Belarus.

Sergei Kislyak scored in the 86th minute to hand France one of its most embarrassing defeats, following a disastrous World Cup campaign.

David Villa matched Spain's all-time scoring record with his 44th international goal to help the defending European champion beat Liechtenstein 4-0 and take an early lead in the five-team Group I.

The Netherlands beat San Marino 5-0 to win its first competitive match since losing the World Cup final to Spain in July, while Germany won 1-0 at Belgium and Italy beat Estonia 2-1.

The French players needed a good performance at Stade de France to win over fans following the debacle at the World Cup, when they refused to train and were knocked out in the first round.

But the team was jeered from the field in coach Laurent Blanc's first home match.

Vyacheslav Hleb set up the crucial goal when he weaved to the right of the penalty area and pulled the ball back for Kislyak, who beat goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a powerful shot into the top right corner.

The result means that Bosnia-Herzegovina became the early Group D leader with a 3-0 win at Luxembourg. Romania and Albania drew 1-1 in the other match.

Portugal conceded in the 89th to draw 4-4 with visiting Cyprus in Group H, but Spain's first qualifier was much more straightforward.

Fernando Torres put Spain ahead before Villa matched Raul Gonzalez's record tally of 44 international goals in the 26th with a rising 20-meter shot that went straight over the goalie's head.

Torres made it 3-0 early in the second half and substitute David Silva struck in the 62nd.



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