England V Slovenia
5 Sep 2009
England 2 - 1 Slovenia
England warmed up for their crucial World Cup Qualifier against Croatia with a 2-1 victory over Slovenia at Wembley.
On 31 minutes, Frank Lampard gave England the lead from the penalty spot before Jermain Defoe continued his international goalscoring exploits, firing home from the edge of the area on 63. Zlatan Ljubijankic pulled a goal back for Slovenia with five minutes remaining, but England held on comfortably for the win.
With just four days between this match and the Croatia qualifier, Fabio Capello took the opportunity to field six substitutes with a view to keeping his players fresh for Wednesday and the England Manager will be pleased by the nature of the victory, despite the minimal margin.
Slovenia had an enthusastic start to the match, putting together a few confident moves in England's half and they also had the first clear opportunity of the match. After seven minutes, Milivoje Novakovic broke into the box and rounded Robert Green, although the 'keeper did get a hand to the ball, before curling his shot narrowly over the bar from an angle. John Terry and Matthew Upson were patrolling the line and would seemingly have cleared the danger had the effort been on target.
England were attacking with greater pace in the opening exchanges despite not being able to convert this threat into obvious chances. The hosts eventually grew into the game and misway through the first half they had two glorious opportunities too break the deadlock.
On 22 minutes, an Emile Heskey flick on round Rooney on the left side of the box. The bouncing ball may have hit Miso Brecko's hand accidently but Rooney cut back on to his right foot to better the angle. Brecko recovered well to deflect the forward's effort over the bar. From the ensuing corner, Terry hit the bar with a thumping header.
England were increasing the pressure on the Slovenian goal and they deservedly took the lead just after the half hour mark. Steven Gerrard's teasing centre led to a tangle between Bostjan Cesar and Rooney, resulting in the England penalty which Lampard crashed into the bottom right of Samir Handanovic's goal. It was Lampard's fourth goal in six internationals.
The woodwork again came to Slovenia's rescue when an Upson header from Gerrard's corner found its way to Rooney, unmarked at the back post, but the forward's left foot effort came back off the post. Gerrard then bent a trademark effort just wide as England began to take total control.
The first batch of England subs saw Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, James Milner and Aaron Lennon coming on after the interval and Defoe and Milner both went close at the start of the second half. Firstly, the Tottenham man arrived at the near post to meet a Glan Johnson cross, only for it to be deflected behind for a corner. Milner's subsequenct cross-cum-shot crept just wide of the post.
England were looking increasingly comfortable and Rob Green hadn't had an awful lot to do, but he was called upon in the 58th minute to claw away a Robert Koren free kick from the left. Barely five minuted later however and Defoe had doubled the advantage.
He recieved a square ball from Lennon an the 18 yard line and rifled a low, albeit slightly deflected, shot into the corner of the net. After his brace against Holland last month and his double against Andorra at the end of last season, it was the 26 year old's fifth goal in three England matches.
Lennon looked bright and would have been buoyed by his hand in the goal, so it was no surprise to see him gallop down the right to provide a cross for Rooney, who turned the ball goalwards, but Matej Mavricrozic was on the line to block. It was to be Rooney's last meaningful contribution as he was replaced by Carlton Cole soon after. Joleon Lescott also appeared from the bench, in place of Upson.
Slovenia then silenced the Wembley crowd, pulling a goal back on 85 minutes and it was created by substitutes on their own. Some neat footwork from Nejc Pecnik allowed him to get a cross in despite the attention from Johnson, and Ljubijankic beat Lescott to the ball at the near post to head home.
With full time approaching Carlton Cole could have resored England's two goal lead as he stole into the box, but Marko Suler was on hand to clear.
Croatia will surely provide a sterner test next week but Capello will be happy to have used his full quota of 17 players and he knows that if England can repeat this scoreline on Wednesday then they can book their flights to South Africa.