Rooney, Wilshere goals help England edge Slovenia in Euro qualifiers

The display also allowed Roy Hodgson's men to answer some of their critics after they were lambasted for an anaemic goalless draw against the Republic of Ireland in their previous outing.

sports Updated: Jun 15, 2015 01:10 IST
Euro 2016,Uefa Euro 2016 qualifiers,Wayne Rooney

Wayne Rooney moved to within one goal of England's all-time scoring record with an 86th-minute winner as his side edged Slovenia 3-2 in a topsy-turvy Euro 2016 qualifier on Sunday.

Milivoje Novakovic gave Slovenia the lead against the run of play in the 37th minute at the Stozice Stadium, before Jack Wilshere broke his international duck with a pair of brilliant second-half goals to put England ahead.

Slovenia substitute Nejc Pecnik appeared to have rescued a point with an 84th-minute equaliser, but moments later Rooney atoned for two glaring earlier misses by scoring his 48th England goal, taking him level with Gary Lineker and one goal behind Bobby Charlton. Rooney's strike gave England a sixth straight win in Group E, sending them provisionally nine points clear at the summit, and saw them finish a season unbeaten for the first time in 24 years. The display also allowed Roy Hodgson's men to answer some of their critics after they were lambasted for an anaemic goalless draw against the Republic of Ireland in their previous outing.

Hodgson made three changes to the team that had started in Dublin, with Kieran Gibbs, Fabian Delph, and Andros Townsend coming in, but it was a player whose place was thought to have been under threat, Raheem Sterling, who provided the hosts' spark.

Twice Rooney freed Sterling to run at goal in the early stages, but after side-footing his first attempt over the bar, he then cut inside and saw a low shot deflected behind. The 20-year-old also raced to the byline and sent a cross skidding across the face of goal, while Rooney drew a fine, finger-tip save from Samir Handanovic with a left-foot shot.

There was crispness to England's passing and purpose to their attacking forays, but eight minutes before half-time a succession of mistakes allowed the home side to land a sucker-punch.

Phil Jones's loose throw-in gifted possession to Slovenia and when Josip Ilicic played the ball behind the England defence, Gary Cahill misjudged his attempt to play offside and Novakovic ran through to score his 30th international goal.

England's Jack Wilshere celebrates his goal during the Euro 2016 Group E qualifying match against Slovenia and England at the Stozice stadium in Ljubljana, Slovenia on June 14, 2015. (AP Photo)

Wilshere scores twice

Hodgson made a change at half-time, sending on Adam Lallana for Jones and asking Jordan Henderson to fill in at right-back, and although it seemed a puzzling switch, his side drew level in the 57th minute. Sterling's pacy pass into the box was neatly gathered by Lallana and while the former Southampton captain could not get a shot away, the loose ball was crashed into the net by Wilshere from just outside the box.

Rooney then squandered two gilt-edged chances to put England in front, with Sterling the creator on both occasions, first leaning back and shooting over with his right foot and then spooning over with his left.

But if the Manchester United striker's efforts were embarrassing, Wilshere's second goal, in the 73rd minute, was anything but. The move began deep in England's half, with Henderson rolling the ball into Townsend's feet and then racing down the flank to receive the Tottenham Hotspur winger's lay-off. Henderson advanced into the Slovenia half before stroking the ball infield to Lallana, who immediately back-heeled it into Wilshere's path, and the Arsenal man took one touch before slamming a glorious shot into the top-left corner.

Pecnik looked to have spoiled England's end-of-season send-off when he rose to head home a left-wing cross from Bojan Jokic, but moments later, Jokic's sliding challenge on Theo Walcott sent the ball straight into Rooney's path, and the captain rolled home the winner.

First Published: Jun 15, 2015 00:30 IST