ENGLAND 3, SLOVENIA 1
Wayne Rooney marked his 100th cap by captaining England to victory against Slovenia in their Euro qualifier at Wembley.
England made it four wins out of four in their qualification campaign, but not without a struggle in the battle of the top two teams in group E.
While England eventually came good, it was a struggle for almost an hour as Slovenia even had the audacity to snatch the lead.
That jolted England to life a Rooney penalty, followed by a double from Danny Welbeck, completed a remarkable turnabout in their fortunes in a 15-minute spell as they took another stride towards the finals in France.
Manager Roy Hodgson admitted Slovenia caused England problems, but was pleased with the second-half display.
He said: “Games last 90 minutes. I thought we dominated the first half, but were a little sterile and didn’t create chances. You have to give the opposition credit as they were well organised and made life difficult.
“Their goal was against the run of play and was harsh, but we played well and were good value for the three goals and the win.
“After Wayne got a quick equaliser, the game opened up due to their fatigue and also because we found ways of causing them problems.
“It would if we have played like that all the way through, but it would be churlish to win 3-1 against one of the top two teams in the group and criticise us.”
Hodgson paid tribute to Rooney’s achievements for England and also his contribution to the victory against Slovenia.
He said: “It was wonderful in every way for Wayne who won his 100th cap and had it presented by Sir Bobby Charlton which would be special to most players, and Wayne will be no different.
“Wayne is important to me as a manager and also to English football in what he has achieved which has been well documented.
“It was fitting tonight he got his reward by picking up his 100th cap, scoring an important goal and captaining England to a win.
“He has taken the captaincy seriously and shown enthusiasm, energy and passion for it.”
There had been much trumpeting before the game as to Rooney’s achievement in becoming only the ninth player to reach 100 caps, and he is the youngest to do so eclipsing Bobby Moore.
While Rooney was winning his 100th cap, at the opposite end of the spectrum Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne was getting his first at the start of his international career.
It was clear from the start that England were in for a tough time as Slovenia pressed the ball giving their opponents little space to exploit.
Slovenia, many of whose players appear in Europe’s leading leagues, were also comfortable in possession as England were unable to take any liberties.
Neither goalkeeper had a shot to save in a dour opening half hour in which Raheen Sterling, Rooney and Danny Welbeck all had efforts well off target.
Indeed, the first time Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic was called into action following an errant back pass from Jasmin Kurtic which he had to scramble behind for a corner in the 32nd minute.
It was not until almost 10 minutes after the restart that Handanovic was forced to make a save from an England player, a routine stop to keep out Phil Jagielka’s header.
England were stunned as Slovenia snatched a 57th minute lead when a free kick from Andraz Kirm glanced off the head of Jordan Henderson and looped over the head of Joe Hart. There was a stunned silence around Wembley apart from the small pocket of joyous Slovenian fans.
Little over one minute later and England were level when Bostjan Cesar tripped Rooney who picked himself up to squeeze his spot kick past Handanovic for his 44th international goal to draw level with Jimmy Greaves who is third on the all-time list.
England, not with a momentum, went ahead for the first time midway through the second period when Welbeck found the net. Adam Lallana drilled in the ball from the right and it was kept out by the legs of Handanovic. Cesar headed the loose ball out but only as far as Welbeck whose scuffed shot somehow managed to find its way into the net. It was not pretty, but they all count.
Welbeck struck again in the 72nd minute after playing a delighted return pass with Sterling before slotting home a low shot, his 13th goal for England to seal victory.