FIRST TO FINALS AS ROONEY GAINS RECORD
England confirmed qualification for Euro 2016 earlier than any team ever has before with a comprehensive victory in San Marino. Wayne Rooney equalled Bobby Charlton’s record with a penalty but will have to wait to eclipse it.
Roy Hodgson rested many for Tuesday’s tie with Switzerland for last night’s match in San Marino. Jonjo Shelvey and Jamie Vardy both claimed their first starts and second caps as Rooney led the line with youngster John Stones at centre-back for the first time in an England shirt.
The minnows kicked off under the beautiful sunset in Serravalle. Eleven minutes in, England gained a free-kick on the right wing. Liverpool’s James Milner swung the ball into the box. As the ball bounced up, it appeared to strike John Stones clearly on the arm, but appearing to initially award San Marino with a free-kick, the Cypriot referee pointed to the spot. On second viewing, there is no explanation as to why the penalty was awarded. A small push on Stones by debutant Marco Berardi may have been the reason, but it was nothing illegal. Berardi was harshly booked. Wayne Rooney picked up the ball, and placed it on the spot. The small stadium’s pitch was in a terrible state, and Rooney straightened out his run-up in an attempt to keep his footing. He slotted it powerfully into the bottom right corner – the goalkeeper Simoncini diving the other way. England had lift off. Right winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a chance to punish to double the advantage from inside the six-yard box, but his strong drive was acrobatically tipped over the bar in eyebrow-raising fashion.
The away side looked to have got much less hungry after Rooney’s record-equalling goal, and had to wait until the thirtieth minute to increase their lead. A delicious cross from left-back Luke Shaw was brushed home with a deft touch of a San Marino head. Cristian Brolli’s attempt to stop Rooney from heading in saw him find the net instead. The distraught defender, bandaged-up after an earlier clash of heads, lay down in mental agony as England celebrated. At the half-time point, England led the match by a couple. The third goal saw England put the ball in the net after thirteen seconds of the second-half played. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain burst down the wing and all the way to the by-line. His lovely cross was missed by Rooney, whom the defenders had all followed. There unmarked in the area was Everton’s Ross Barkley who headed past Simoncini to claim his first England goal. The very early second-period goal could be seen as compensating for ground [goals] lost in the first forty-five.
In the fifty-ninth minute, captain Wayne Rooney was met by applause from around the ground as Harry Kane replaced him. There was also slight confusion as his departure was certainly an unexpected one. James Milner made way for Manchester City’s Fabien Delph at the same time. There were no chances of note until eight minutes ten minutes later, by which time Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been swapped with Arsenal teammate Theo Walcott. As Shaw carried the ball to the edge of the box, Jamie Vardy headered the ball into Delph’s path. The midfielder’s angled volley was bouncing wide but there with a late run to tap the ball into the net was Walcott. He had scored with his first touch of the ball. A few minutes later a long, low ball by Shelvey split the entire defence open. As Harry Kane entered the box, he lofted the ball with a delicate chip right over the goalkeeper and two backtracking defenders. It was a rather breathtaking first goal of the season. ITV’s Clive Tyldesley had not finished taking about Harry Kane’s goal before the sixth came about. Another long ball from Jonjo Shelvey was taken by Ross Barkley, who tucked the ball into the unmarked Walcott. His low shot trickled beyond Simoncin’s right leg and into the net. The score-line looked much more convincing now, and Walcott was up to seven England goals with his second of the night. The passing got awfully defensive from here on in and The Three Lions failed to create even a single other chance. Wayne Rooney was England’s joint top goalscorer and England had won 6-0. Switzerland await at Wembley.