Rooney double deals Bulgaria a blow
© Getty Images

Wayne Rooney hit the goal trail once more as England took a significant stride towards UEFA EURO 2012 with an impressive 3-0 hammering of Bulgaria in Sofia.

A decade after a memorable 5-1 win over Germany in Munich, Fabio Capello's men could not quite come up with a repeat performance. Nevertheless, their hosts had no answer to a three-goal first-half that means four points from their final two games will book England a ticket to next summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine.

Rooney will approach Tuesday's Wembley meeting with Wales in fine fettle as he bagged a brace after Gary Cahill scored the opener to end a barren run that had brought him just one goal in his previous 15 appearances prior to kick-off.

Frank Lampard, on the other hand, was left digesting the news of being omitted from a competitive England starting line-up for the first time since he spent all but ten minutes of a sickening defeat in Russia on the bench nearly four years ago.

Capello rarely has a fully fit group of players to select from. However, with Jack Wilshere and Steven Gerrard missing, the obvious conclusion from the Italian's starting line-up, which paired Gareth Barry with Scott Parker in central midfield, is that Lampard's place in the squad can no longer be guaranteed.

After a tricky start, Cahill put in an excellent performance. And the manner of his first international goal, chesting down Barry's astute chip over a static home defence before nudging the ball past on-rushing keeper Nikolay Mihaylov, justified his selection ahead of Manchester United rookie Phil Jones.

Even though it was only Cahill's fourth cap - and his first competitive start - Chris Smalling's shaky debut display at full-back showed why Capello was not willing to start the match with two players of such inexperience in his defence. After that it turned into the Rooney show.

Twelve months ago, the brilliant striker was in the middle of a 12-month dip in form which it seemed he would never get out of. Now it is as though the drought never happened.

The striker first rose above John Terry at the far post to power home Stewart Downing's 21st-minute corner. Then, offered a rare chance to burst forward, Theo Walcott tore into a huge empty space, rolled a pass to Ashley Young, whose low cross presented Rooney with a tap-in.

Five days after scoring a hat-trick against Arsenal, Rooney had moved up to joint eighth on the all-time England scorers list, amongst those just above, Nat Lofthouse, the last Bolton player to score for the Three Lions, until Cahill, way back in 1959.

It was the eighth time Rooney had scored twice in a game, yet he still awaits his first hat-trick from a 28-goal haul. The goal turned the second half into an extended training session ahead of Tuesday's Wembley showdown with Wales, when victory would take England to the brink of qualification without actually being able to book a place in next summer's finals.

Downing almost bagged a fourth when he floated Walcott's cross against the far post. Walcott then fired wide after being set free by Rooney. It was a minor quibble on a night when nearly everything went right for Capello, even to the extent of Craig Bellamy getting himself booked in Cardiff, thereby ensuring he will not be playing in Tuesday's match.