England v Slovenia
15 Nov 2014 - 5:00 PM
England came from behind against Slovenia to win 3-1 at Wembley and move further in front in the race to France 2016.
The visitors unexpected second-half lead – an own-goal from Jordan Henderson – only served to click Roy Hodgson’s team into gear.
Swift responses from Wayne Rooney – a penalty - and another Danny Welbeck double, kept the Three Lions’ perfect start to qualifying intact.
All the pre-match fanfare was around the captain, who became the ninth and youngest player to reach 100 caps for England.
Meanwhile, there was also a debutant as Southampton defender Nathaniel Clyne was given his first taste of senior team action at right-back.
Both sides arrived on the back of two victories in October, but Slovenia’s defeat in the first week of qualifying meant they were three points behind leaders England.
Hodgson was looking for his team to cement their place at the top going into the long, four-month break from international football.
Rooney was also keen to add to his England goals tally to take him closer to the record of 49 held by the man who presented him with his commemorative gold cap before kick-off – Sir Bobby Charlton.
A couple of early opportunities came his way. First a long ball forward that he failed to control on the edge of the box, then a snap-shot from 20 yards, following Welbeck’s knock-down, but that was too high.
Raheem Sterling saw an effort go wide of the post, while Welbeck also had two good chances, one with his head, but those also missed Samir Handanovic’s goal.
The Three Lions were enjoying so much possession but it was only when they lifted the tempo with quick passing and movement that they pulled Slovenia out of shape.
Sterling, playing the attacking role in central midfield, was keen to get things moving, dropping deep to collect the ball from the back four. But an added impetus was needed to add more tempo into England’s play.
A quick break from Rooney early in the second half won a corner, from which the skipper connected with his head, unmarked, but the ball skidded wide of the mark.
Rooney then carved out a chance for Jagielka, clipping in a cross which the Everton man headed goalwards, but straight into the hands of Handanovic.
The game was brought to life 12 minutes after the break when a dangerous inswinging Slovenian free-kick from the left was flicked on by Henderson, looping over the stretching arm of Joe Hart and under the bar.
The home side were behind, and it was their first goal conceded this campaign – Luis Suarez was the last player to score past England on that night in Sao Paulo.
It needed something special to get the Three Lions level, and up stepped the skipper to drag them back into the game almost instantly. Rooney tricked his way into the box and was tripped by Slovenia captain Bostjan Cesar. Penalty.
The Manchester United man tucked away his third spot-kick of the season, though Handanovic did get a touch, to restore parity and move within five of Charlton’s record.
And it got better for England soon after when Danny Welbeck weighed in with two quick-fire goals to add to his impressive tally for his country. He is now on 13 in 31 games.
First, Adam Lallana’s low cross was saved by the feet of the Inter Milan keeper and the ball fell kindly to the Welbeck who directed back into the net, albeit a little untidily.
But his second goal highlighted just what had been missing in the first half. Playing a quick one-two with Sterling to remove the marking defender from his path, he slotted past Handanovic for fifth goal in four games.
Slovenia substitute Rajko Rotman almost reduced the arrears with a fierce drive from the edge of the box, while Ales Mertelj’s bullet looked good, but their attacks were few and far between.
England looked for more goals – Welbeck, in particular, was eager for another to seal a hat-trick, but the 3-1 victory was enough to send them into the winter in charge of Group E.
England (4-1-2-1-2) 1 Joe Hart, 2 Nathaniel Clyne, 3 Kieran Gibbs, 4 Jordan Henderson, 5 Gary Cahill, 6 Phil Jagielka, 7 Jack Wilshere, 8 Adam Lallana, 9 Danny Welbeck, 10 Wayne Rooney (c), 11 Raheem Sterling
Subs: 16 James Milner for Lallana 80; 17 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Sterling 85; 12 Chris Smalling for Jagielka 89.
Subs not used: 13 Ben Foster, 14 Calum Chambers, 15 Ross Barkley, 18 Theo Walcott, 19 Stewart Downing, 20 Saido Berahino, 21 Rickie Lambert, 22 Fraser Forster
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Goals: Rooney 59pen, Welbeck 66, 72;
Slovenia (4-4-2): 1 Samir Handanovic, 2 Miso Brecko, 5 Bostjan Cesar (c), 6 Branko Ilic, 8 Jasmin Kurtic, 10 Valter Birsa, 11 Milivoje Novakovic, 15 Andraz Struna, 17 Andraz Kirm, 20 Kevin Kampl, 22 Ales Mertelj
Substitutes: 18 Rajko Rotman for Kurtic 75; 9 Zlatan Ljubijankic for Kirm 78
Subs not used: 16 Jan Oblak, 12 Vid Belec, 3 Željko Filipovic, 4 Dalibor Stevanovic, 7 Nejc Pecnik, 13 Sinisa Andjelkovic, 14 Dejan Lazarevic, 19 Dominic Maroh, 21 Martin Milec, 23 Miral Samardzic
Head coach: Srecko Katanec
Goals: Henderson 57og
Referee: Olegario Benquerenca (Portugal)
Assistants: Ricardo Santos and Rui Tavares (Portugal)
Fourth official: Nuno Pereira (Portugal)