Danny Welbeck scored his first international goals for more than a year as Roy Hodgson’s England began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a morale-boosting win in Switzerland.
England manager Hodgson, who came in for criticism following last week’s uninspiring win over Norway, handed Welbeck the central striker’s role he craves and he responded by scoring both goals in this impressive 2-0 victory in Basle.
The 23-year-old showed why Arsenal paid £16million for his signature as he turned home a Raheem Sterling cross on a lightning counter-attack that also involved captain Wayne Rooney.
And the former Manchester United man rounded off the win in injury time with a well-taken finish.
Hodgson turned the air blue following criticism of his team at Wembley last Wednesday, but he will have nothing but kind words to say about his team today after they put in a much-improved display.
Without 15 injured seniors, Hodgson’s young starting XI had just 282 caps among them whereas Switzerland’s team had played 481 times in total for their country.
That, and the fact that Switzerland were ranked 11 places above England, made the hosts the pre-match favourites but Hodgson’s men were the best team going forward by some distance.
The attacking triumvirate of Welbeck, Sterling and Rooney created many chances, but their finishing let them down until Welbeck poked home his first England goal since September 6, 2013. Former Leeds United midfielder Fabian Delph, making his full debut, also put in a strong display in the middle of the park.
The defensive vulnerabilities that cost England in Brazil were still evident – Phil Jones almost gifted the Swiss the lead in the first half. But Hodgson will return to England with a broad smile on his face after beating his biggest rivals in Group E.
Welbeck felt that his goals were ultimately just rewards for the work ethic shown by England.
“I think we created a number of chances which maybe we could have done better with the final pass.
“Once we got the first goal I think we were in control and played a good team game today and you could see the work ethic – everyone is playing for each other and that’s very important,” he said.
“Obviously we’ve sat back a little bit deeper and we’ve got the pace to get in behind them so once they went Raz (Sterling) took the ball down the wing, played it into Rickie (Lambert) and then I knew he had the ability to slide me in and thankfully he did that.
“My first touch was nice and it was a nice finish.”
Rooney said: “We did well as a team and we took our chances. We caught them on the break with speed and Dan got two great goals so I’m really delighted.”
Switzerland: Sommer, Rodriguez, Djourou, Lichtsteiner, Von Bergen, Behrami, Xhaka (Dzemaili, 74), Inler, Mehmedi (Drmic, 64), Shaqiri, Seferovic. Subs (not used): Benito, Senderos, Widmer, Frei, Hitz, Stocker, Dzemaili, Fernandes, Kasami, Drmic, Bürki, Schär.
England: Hart, Baines, Stones, Cahill, Jones (Jagielka, 77), Henderson, Delph, Sterling, Wilshere (Milner, 73), Rooney (Lambert, 90, Welbeck. Subs (not used): Rose, Forster, Jagielka, Chambers, Milner, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Townsend, Lambert.
Referee: Cüneyt Çakir.