By Timothy Collings
MORULENG, South Africa (Reuters) - Wayne Rooney scored and was booked as England did little to justify a place among the World Cup favorites when they labored to a 3-0 win over South African premier league side Platinum Stars on Monday.
A Jermain Defoe goal after only two minutes and second-half strikes from Joe Cole and Rooney gave Fabio Capello's team a flattering victory at the Moruleng Stadium, an hour's drive north of their Rustenburg base, in an unofficial warm-up game.
On an evening more memorable for the noise generated in the night air by hundreds of vuvuzelas and the open views of red soil, savannah grass and distant mountains, England appeared frustrated and, at times, near to moments of indiscipline.
Capello selected what was probably close to his strongest team in the first half, minus Rooney -- an eleven that included Joe Hart in goal, Shaun Wright-Phillips on the right wing and striker Jermain Defoe -- but they struggled to control lively and dexterous opponents, who missed a penalty, in hot sunshine.
The spot kick came after four minutes when right-back Glen Johnson was harshly adjudged to have committed a foul and Bradley Grobler fired high over the bar.
Urged on by groups of dancing fans clad in yellow South Africa shirts, the Stars also forced saves in both halves from Hart and his replacement Robert Green.
As the sun fell, so England blossomed and they improved their tempo and performance in the second half although the Stars remained threatening on the break under bright floodlights following the rapid disappearance of the sun.
Apart from the inclusion of Hart for the first half and Green in goal for the second -- selections that suggested 39-year-old David James may struggle to claim a starting place -- the match also gave skipper Steven Gerrard a chance to work in tandem with vice-captain Frank Lampard in central midfield.
Their first-half showing, before Capello made ten halftime changes, was uninspiring but no worse than many players around them amid misplaced passes and an overall lack of understanding.
Rooney, scorer of 25 goals for England, was held back until the second half, and stormed into the action when he arrived.
His bullish frame of mind was clearly evident as he clattered into several challenges before being cautioned by referee Selogilwe for verbal dissent after an hour.
He made the right impact in the 83rd minute, however, when James Milner broke away down the left before pulling a cross back to Rooney who thumped the ball into the bottom corner.
(Editing by Ken Ferris)