Rooney free kick earns England 1-0 win in Estonia
TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Wayne Rooney curled in a 73rd-minute free kick to earn England an uninspiring 1-0 win over 10-man Estonia and a third straight victory in qualifying for the 2016 European Championship on Sunday.
Playing in his 99th international, the England captain made up for squandering two decent first-half chances by whipping a shot over the wall and inside the near post, with goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko parrying the ball against the upright but unable to keep it out.
England coach Roy Hodgson was contemplating taking off Rooney when the Manchester United striker scored his 43rd international goal that moved him to within one of Jimmy Greaves, who is third on England’s all-time list. Rooney needs seven more goals to overhaul England’s leading scorer, Bobby Charlton.
Estonia, ranked No. 81, had captain Ragnar Klavan sent off in the 48th minute for a second yellow card but did a good job in frustrating England in the Group E match.
“The pleasing thing is we have a young team, we knew it was going to tough but we hung in well,” Rooney said. “Nights like this are going to help us.”
Rooney, England’s captain, always looked the likely scorer for the visitors in a drab game in Tallinn. He had eight shots in all and wasted a one-on-one opportunity in second-half injury time by shooting straight at Pareiko.
England had previously beaten Switzerland and San Marino in qualifying and tops the group. Lithuania was looking to move level on points with England but lost 2-0 to Slovenia, which is tied on six points with its beaten opponent. Milivoje Novakovic scored both goals in the first half.
San Marino hosts Switzerland on Tuesday, with both countries without a point after two games.
Save for an early scare when Sergei Zenjov saw a low shot deflected narrowly wide, England was in control in A. Le Coq Arena but lacked any guile in the final third to finish off good approach play.
Rooney volleyed over from a chipped pass from the lively Jack Wilshere midway through the first half and then failed to make connection from close range to a cross from Leighton Baines.
Estonia defended stoutly but its task of sneaking the biggest win in its history got harder when Klavan cynically blocked Fabian Delph as the England midfielder ran through toward the area. The referee, who had booked the defender in the 29th for impeding Danny Welbeck, had no option but to show a red card.
England struggled to open up Estonia’s defense in open play, so was thankful for the intervention from Rooney, who raised his arms and looked up to the sky after the ball nestled in the back of the net.
“It was a good free kick from Wayne,” said Hodgson, “but it was a frustrating night for him.”