Centurion Rooney scores as England beats Slovenia
LONDON (AP) — Wayne Rooney scored for England on his 100th appearance before Danny Welbeck’s double secured a 3-1 victory over Slovenia in European Championship qualifying on Saturday.
As Roy Hodgson’s Group E leaders made it four wins out of four, San Marino earned a landmark 0-0 draw against Estonia, ending a run of 61 consecutive losses for world football’s lowest-ranked team.
The milestone match for Rooney at Wembley saw the England captain net his 44th international goal — canceling Jordan Henderson’s own goal — to go five behind Bobby Charlton’s record 49.
“It was tough because they took the lead and we had to show our character,” Rooney said. “It was a great reaction from the players.”
England surged six points clear of Slovenia, Switzerland and Lithuania. The Swiss beat visiting Lithuania 4-0, with winger Xherdan Shaqiri scoring twice.
Before the game in London, Rooney collected his commemorative golden 100th cap from Charlton to cheers, but the atmosphere became subdued as England labored throughout the first half, looking disjointed.
The game came to life 10 minutes into the second half when England finally found the target, with Phil Jagielka’s header saved by goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
But at the other end, Henderson inadvertently flicked Milivoje Novakovic’s free kick into his own goal when a headed clearance went wrong.
Just as quickly, the action was back in the Slovenia penalty area, with Rooney earning the penalty following Bostjan Cesar’s challenge and scoring from the spot. Rooney is England’s joint-third highest goal-scorer alongside Jimmy Greaves.
“It was a fine piece of play by Jack Wilshere to set it up, but it was a very good run from (Rooney) into the box and that put us right back in the game,” Hodgson said.
England’s fortunes had turned, and Welbeck punished Slovenia twice.
Adam Lallana cut in from the right and a deflected shot that was parried by Handanovic, but Miso Brecko’s headed clearance went straight to Welbeck. His scuffed shot put England in front in the 65th.
It was a slicker build-up to Welbeck’s second goal. Kieran Gibbs played in Welbeck, who played a neat one-two with Raheem Sterling before knocking the ball into the net in the 72nd.
England heads to Glasgow for a friendly against Scotland on Tuesday, although goalkeeper Joe Hart is being given time off, leaving Fraser Forster or Ben Foster competing for the starting spot.
Beaten by England and Slovenia to open the group, Switzerland has had back-to-back 4-0 wins against San Marino and now Lithuania.
All the goals came in the second half, with visiting goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis gifting the first in the 66th minute by fumbling a Shaqiri corner into his own net on a rainy night.
Defender Fabian Schaer finished neatly two minutes later after another Shqairi corner was not cleared, and the Swiss star scored with a header and flick from right-flank crosses in the 80th and 90th.