the Dustcart, comes the Lord Mayor's Show!
After the awful
match in Dublin the previous weekend, we were treated to a terrific
game, and a super England victory that takes them a step nearer to
qualification for the European Championships next summer.
Right from the first
whistle England were sharp, positive and played with a real sense of
It wouldn't be
England if there wasn't a few stumbles along the way, and there were a
couple during this match, but overall the win was richly deserved.
As early as the
fourth minute Raheem Sterling had a wonderful chance to open the
scoring, when a fine pass from Wayne Rooney gave the under pressure
Liverpool youngster the perfect chance to answer his critics.
Unfortunately, in trying to lob the
goalkeeper, Sterling hit the ball a fraction too hard and the ball
cleared the crossbar.
To the lad's great credit the miss
never affected him and he was a thorn in Slovenia's side for the whole
Four minutes later a terrific move
of one-touch football only ended when Kieran Gibbs saw his cross
The positive start was encouraging
and England dominated possession for long periods.
Another fine pass saw a good shot
by Sterling deflected wide and it seemed only a matter of time before
England would take the lead.
powerful running and Jordan Henderson's link-up play was perfectly
complemented by a thrilling display from Jack Wilshere.
His touch and vision was excellent
throughout and he was involved again when Rooney fired in a shot only
to see Samir Handanovic make a wonderful one-handed save.
England were getting closer, as
Andros Townsend then put in a good cross that was saved.
At the other end, only a free-kick
by Milivoje Novakovic troubled Joe Hart, but the shot was an easy
A draw or a defeat would be of no
use to Slovenia and they pressed forward when they could, But England
held all the aces at this stage.
Sterling was tripped when almost
through and then Townsend saw another effort saved.
The only worry was that England had
had all the pressure but could not find a route to goal.
Then, on 37 minutes, the
A lapse in
concentration at the back, which stemmed from a bad throw-in from Phil
Jones, saw England's defence exposed as Josep Llicic was able to pass
through Chris Smalling and Gary Cahill to send Novakovic on an
unchallenged run at goal.
To the veteran's credit he took his
chance brilliantly as Hart tried to narrow the angle, slipping the
ball wide of the keeper and in off the post.
It was a bitter blow for England
and for a few moments they lost their composure.
To be losing at half-time was a
travesty if truth be told, but it just goes to show it is no good
having oodles of possession if you don't make it pay with goals.
The break gave Roy
Hodgson the chance to have a word with his players, and at the restart
the manager replaced the injured Jones with Adam Lallana, pushing
Henderson to right-back.
On the surface this seemed a
strange move, especially with specialist right-back Nathaniel Clyne on
As it turned out though the
substitute played a big part in the fightback by England.
From the restart England went onto
the front foot.
A good break ended because no
England player wanted to shoot, and then Henderson hit a shot well
It seemed that Slovenia, at this
point, were happy to hold what they had, but eventually the pressure
told and on 57 minutes England finally equalised.
An attack down the right saw
Lallana in the thick of the action and when the ball was half-cleared
there was Wilshere, following up, to lash home a tremendous shot from
the edge of the penalty area.
It was his first goal for England
and emphasised a brilliant performance by the Arsenal player.
England were now in
the ascendency, and a minute later a superb run by Sterling set up
Rooney for what seemed a certain goal.
Somehow the skipper contrived to
miss the target when it seemed easier to score.
And then another minute into the
game Townsend great pull back to Rooney presented the striker with an
even easier chance.
Again Rooney was found wanting, but
it was also good to see England stepping on the gas.
Surely the chances would continue
Delph, Lallana and Townsend all had
efforts at goal before, finally, England deservedly took the lead, and
what a cracking goal it was.
A superb move down the right
involving Henderson and Townsend saw the ball fed towards Lallana.
A clever back flick from the
Liverpool man laid the ball into the path of Wilshere, who took one
touch before unleashing an unstoppable shot to make it 2-1 to England.
Theo Walcott was
immediately sent on for Townsend as England looked to exploit some
tired home legs with a burst of pace.
Bostjan Cesar was extremely lucky
not to receive a straight red card when he went in on Rooney with,
what amounted to, a forearm smash that Mick McManus would have been
Cesar didn't even receive a yellow
for that one.
had looked good offensively in this match, but there were still doubts
at the back.
The back four all looked a little
shaky at times and there was no dominant figure taking control.
This was to prove costly in the
84th minute as a move down the left gave the impressive Bojan Jokic
the chance to send over a wonderful cross to the far post where Nejc
Pecnik outjumped the flatfooted Gibbs to head home.
It was a good header, well taken,
but woeful defending by England.
Just as it seemed
that England's unblemished record in the group matches had come to an
end there was time for one last twist in the tale.
On 86 minutes Henderson passed
towards Walcott but it was intercepted by a defender, only for the
ball to run into the path of Rooney.
The striker had missed several
glorious opportunities earlier, but this time there was no mistake as
he side-footed wide of the crestfallen goalkeeper for his 48th England
It takes Rooney level with Gary
Lineker and just one behind Bobby Charlton's all-time record.
As there always is
with England after an international, there is plenty to put right and
problem areas of the team.
But you cannot fault a perfect six
out of six wins and an unbeaten run that has stretched throughout the
Let us spend the summer focusing on
the positives on what was an entertaining and exciting England
Oh, and one other thing, please
wrap Jack Wilshere up in cotton wool, because more performances like
this one could make him a serious contender for England legend status.