Wayne Rooney scored a magnificent goal for England last night, taking the ball on his chest, then powerfully striking it past the helpless goalkeeper. Despite scoring few of these goals, it’s the kind of goal you associate our striker with scoring. When he catches the ball right, I can’t image there are many goalkeepers who can come close to preventing him from finding the back of the net. He hits the ball with such strength, and his attempts have seen the likes of Lehmann and Given look clueless in the past, and he unleashed another cracker last night.

The England fans cheered and chanted his name. This was his second goal in the past two games he’s played for England, following the harsh criticism with preceded. Of course, the evening wouldn’t finish so wonderfully for Rooney.

As the 70th minute approached, the game looked wrapped up. Russia had been the better side in the second half, with England producing very little and struggling to keep possession, but there didn’t seem to be a way back in for Russia, with Rio and Sol performing well at the back. England conceded a penalty which was scored, and then were a goal behind just four minutes later. They fell apart at the seams, as a team they didn’t perform well enough, and this decline followed the mistake of the ref.

Rooney the Hero became Rooney the Villain, as it was his challenge which gave away the penalty. Replays show that any incident took place outside the area, and even within the area, would have been an extremely soft penalty. As both players grappled with each other’s shirts, the Russian fell to the ground a few yards outside of the box. The referee pointed straight to the spot, despite no reaction from the linesman, who had a far better view of what happened.

With England’s fate now in the hands of others, the burden of not qualifying seems to be on Rooney’s shoulders as much as it is Mr Luis Medina Cantalejo and Steve McClaren’s. Gerrard’s simple tap in before the penalty, which he somehow managed to steer wide from a few yards out, will be forgotten. As will his dismal performance. And the dismal performances of Joe Cole, Michael Owen, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Joleon Lescott, to single out the worst performers. What is most frightening is that amidst all this, Rooney’s goal, the only one England scored in the game, the goal which would have taken England through to the finals of Euro 2008, has been forgotten also.

The BBC was the first to blame Rooney, saying “Russia took advantage of England’s generosity in front of goal to turn the game on its head in the space of four minutes. Rooney was the villain after 69 minutes, hauling down Zurianov to concede a penalty, even though the initial offence took place outside the area. Substitute Pavluchenko slammed home the penalty and struck again after 73 minutes, pouncing to score from close range after Robinson parried Alexei Berezutsky’s shot.”

The Sky Sports write up failed to mention the fact the referee was wrong to award the penalty, saying, “After waiting three years for a competitive goal, Rooney had two in a week and looked like becoming the hero McClaren had called for – but instead, the Manchester United man turned villain after the break. Rooney was caught napping as Zurianov burst into the area and Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo spotted a tug on the Russian’s shirt and pointed to the spot. Substitute Pavluchenko dispatched the penalty with a degree of confidence which belied the pressure he must have been under.”

The Times called it “Rooney’s Moment of Madness”. The Guardian headline reads “Rooney and Robinson leave England with nowhere to hide” and claimed it was “no surprise” that a penalty was awarded. They went on to say “The wonderful Manchester United forward has many years left to redefine himself but today he is, with much over-simplification, the embodiment of the lapses that could well cost his country a place at Euro 2008.”

I want to see England qualify, and that is genuine. Despite the shit fans, the shit press and the shit FA, I want to have something to do next summer, and I would find more entertainment and pleasure in cheering on England than watching the likes of Russia. Whilst cheering on Portugal is always a laugh, I want to see Ferdinand, Rooney, Hargreaves, (Neville?) playing over the summer, and I want to see them doing well. They love playing for their country, whether we like it or not, and I want to see them in good spirits after qualifying. In the most recent qualifiers we have watched both Rio and Wayne score for their country, and they love it.

But how much more can we take? How much more should our players we expected to take? Rooney is just a lad, and despite scoring one of the greatest goals we’ve seen from and England player in years, he is now being slaughtered by the media for the mistake of a referee! It is lunacy.

So United face Villa at the weekend, Rooney on the back of scoring four goals in his last four games, and I imagine the traveling fans will let Roo know just how much we appreciate him. Listen out for the White Pele chants when watching the match on The Sultana Channel, they will be deafening. Just as we let Beckham know, England may hate you, but Rooney, we love you.

UNITED > England