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Hat-trick hero Defoe praises assistant Rooney

Hat-trick hero Jermain Defoe was quick to praise England strike partner Wayne Rooney as the Manchester United man returned to top form in his country's 4-0 win over Bulgaria.

• England 4-0 Bulgaria
• Capello hails strike partnership
• Brewin: Capello confounds critics

Rooney provided the ammunition for Defoe's shooting boots by playing a role in his three goals - as well as Adam Johnson's first international strike - as England shook off their World Cup headache with the perfect start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign at Wembley.

Speaking after the match, Defoe hailed Rooney's unselfishness and talked up their belatedly blooming combination: "It's always nice when you play with a partner and they want you to score the third goal. When I was on the second, he said to me, 'Keep going and you'll get the hat-trick'. When I did, he was the first one to come over. It's great - what a feeling. It's a fantastic feeling, to score for your country, to score a hat-trick and to win the game.

"I've always said sometimes it takes time to get things working. In training, we played together all week and it's been very good. Tonight, he was involved in all my goals - so it was brilliant.''

Defoe hobbled off after completing his hat-trick but he dismissed any fears of an injury that would rule him out of Tuesday night's qualifier in Switzerland. The knock was to his ankle, not the knee he was set to have an operation on during the week before changing his mind at the last minute.

He said: "I'm glad I didn't have it now! It's been a little bit sore to be honest but I've done a lot of work in the gym - a lot of core work - to try to improve it and tonight I didn't get a reaction.''

Defoe was also keeping his fingers crossed for Spurs team-mate Michael Dawson, who suffered a freak injury reminscent of Michael Owen's at the 2006 World Cup when his left leg collapsed underneath him.

"He's on crutches at the minute,'' Defoe said. "Hopefully, it's not his knee. Maybe it's his ankle. It looked like he was in a lot of pain. I just hope he's all right.''

England's dismal World Cup campaign has seen them come under fire from all quarters and there were plenty of empty seats at Wembley on Friday night. Defoe said he hoped the win would help them silence their critics but accepted there was still work to do to win over the fans.

"You don't want to take your foot off the gas and get complacent. You want to keep it going and make sure you play like that in the next game.''

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