England beats Montenegro 4-1 in qualifier
LONDON (AP) — England moved closer to qualifying for the World Cup on Friday with a 4-1 victory over Montenegro.
Heading into the final round of matches in Group H, England has a one-point lead over Ukraine, which beat Poland 1-0. While England hosts Poland on Tuesday, Ukraine plays bottom-place San Marino.
England’s gamble on Andros Townsend paid off as the winger capped an impressive debut by scoring.
England came to life in the second half at Wembley Stadium when Wayne Rooney put the hosts in front. Montenegro’s Branko Boskovic turned the ball into his own net to make it 2-0.
Dejan Damjanovic pulled one back for Montenegro with a neat deflection, but Townsend then scored and Daniel Sturridge connected from the penalty spot in stoppage time.
England manager Roy Hodgson pulled a surprise by putting Townsend in the starting lineup for his first cap. Four months ago, Townsend withdrew from the squad for the European Under-21 championship before receiving a one-month ban and a fine of $27,000 for breaching betting rules.
But a strong start to the season with Tottenham saw Townsend force his way into consideration for the team.
From the start Friday, the 22-year-old Townsend used his pace down the right side to trouble the Montenegro defense.
England was facing a goalkeeper who, like Townsend, recently served a ban for breaching rules. Vukasin Poleksic’s two-year suspension was for failing to report that match-fixers approached him before a Champions League match.
Townsend ensured England made the perfect start to the second half, charging down the right wing and sending a cross that wasn’t cleared. Welbeck’s shot was stopped, but Rooney put in the rebound in the 49th minute.
It was the Manchester United striker’s sixth goal in five qualifiers.
A backheel from Sturridge in the 62nd minute released Welbeck on the left flank, and his cross was inexplicably sent into the net by Boskovic when under no pressure.
England seemed to be cruising when Montenegro pulled one back. Against the run of play, Damjanovic turned Fatos Beqiraj’s shot beyond keeper Joe Hart in the 72nd.
But the two-goal lead was restored six minutes later. Townsend picked up the ball near halfway line and ran through the defense before sending a swerving shot in off the right post.
Sturridge’s penalty kick concluded the scoring.