WAYNE AGAIN AND NOT IN VAIN
Manchester United and England captain Wayne Rooney became his country’s leading goalscorer with a late spot-kick in front of seventy-five thousand at Wembley. Harry Kane continued his record of having scored in every competitive international he has played in as Switzerland were defeated by Hodgson’s men.
With Michael Carrick leaving St. George’s Park on Monday with a pulled hamstring, Swansea City midfielder was handed a second successive start in defensive midfield. Raheem Sterling started the match with Chris Smalling brought in at centre-back. Fabian Delph pulled his hamstring too, although actually in the match. Without ten seconds having even been played, his run ended promptly and that was the end of his night. Ross Barkley eagerly replaced him. All eyes though were on Wayne Rooney and whether or not he could make history by becoming England’s all-time leading scorer. The first chance fell to just the man, but his side footed effort was not wrapped enough and it trickled tamely wide of Yann Sommer’s far post. It was not soon after that the skipper’s clever through-ball to James Milner saw the Liverpool player’s poorly placed shot easily stopped by Mönchengladbach’s Sommer. The half ended with nervy and slow football still being played. It looked to appear a welcome break.
The Swiss had just begun to get into their rhythm before the interval and they picked up where they left off early in the second period. Vladimir Petković’s men were playing beautiful long ball right over England’s back four but more often than not the runner was flagged offside or Chris Smalling turned up the quality with what was largely sound defending. The first ‘opening’ of such though went the home side’s way. Exploited the vast pockets of space down the right wing, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ran to the by-line, standing up a delicious cross for Rooney. Almost fourteen yards from goal, he smacked a header on goal, Sommer caught it, although at full stretch and clearly not with ease.
In the sixty-seventh minute, a long James Milner ball was looped over to substitute Harry Kane, on for Jonjo Shelvey. Unable to muster a cross, he sent a precise pass backwards to Barkley. The Everton youngster beat two men before passing to Wayne Rooney. Rooney found Luke Shaw to the left, who dropped a low ball back to the edge of the box. Unmarked in the centre was Tottenham’s Kane, yet to score a goal for his club this season. But he cut the ball back and his low shot passed three Swiss defenders and the reaching arms of the goalkeeper as it powered low into the bottom right corner. Wembley lit up as Kane was smothered with congratulations by, amongst others, Wayne Rooney.
Switzerland were caught offside a few more times, Joe Hart denying Xherdan Shaqiri a chance as he collected the ball, but no chances arose until five minutes from time. Raheem Sterling was picked out and found himself the furthest advanced white shirt up the pitch. His first touch rebounded off Juventus’ Stephen Lichsteiner before coming back to the Manchester City playmaker. His fancy footwork deceived both Lichsteiner and Granit Xhaka, brother of Albanian international Taulant, who crucially floored Sterling with his outstretched leg.
There was absolutely no doubt whatsoever as to who would take the resulting penalty kick. Wayne Rooney, at the tender age of 29, could become the first man ever to score a half-century of goals for England and become the United Kingdom’s top international goalscorer of all-time. As he ran up to hit his most important kick of a football to date, a multitude of cameras went off around Wembley Stadium. He thumped the ball high into the roof of the net, helped on its way by the desperate hand of Yann Sommer. He wheeled away in celebration, and a tear fell from the Liverpudlian’s eye. Mobbed by his teammates, he punched the air. England led Switzerland 2-0 once again, and once again they didn’t particularly deserve it. England are still on track for their first ever qualification campaign without dropping a single point, and have confirmed mathematically that they will finish top of Group E, regardless of what happens in their final two matches. The match, which meant nothing to England’s qualification fate, ended 2-0.