Slovenia 2 England 3 – England grab win thanks to Rooney

Jack Wilshire
Jack Wilshire
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Wayne Rooney was a happy man after a landmark goal got England a 3-2 win in Slovenia.

The Three Lions maintained their perfect record in European Championship Qualifying Group E, thanks to Jack Wilshere’s brace and Rooney’s late winner.

It was his 48th for England and draws him level with Gary Lineker on the all-time charts.

“It’s great to score the winner and it was a great team performance,” he said.

“We were unlucky to be 1-0 down and we spoke about that at half-time and came out on the front foot.”

England have ended the season unbeaten and Rooney added: “We’ve made a lot of progress since the World Cup. We’re proud of our achievements but we need to keep improving now.”

Wilshere was the star of the show, though, with two-long rangers his first for his country.

“Obviously it’s nice to get a first couple of goals for England,” the Arsenal man said. “It’s been a long time coming and I had chances in previous games. Usually in that area for Arsenal we play a bit more but the first one came, I hit it and it went in.

“I want to add more goals. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Paul Scholes; they all scored for England and I want that.”

Manager Roy Hodgson said of Wilshere: “They were not just any old goals, they weren’t exactly tap-ins and they summed up Jack’s game when he took over the midfield.

“I thought we dominated the game totally for long periods and I much prefer the win to the draw.”

As well as Rooney’s exploits, it was as a historic evening for Roy Hodgson too, who became the first England manager to guide his team through an unbeaten season since Graham Taylor did so in the 1990-91 season.

Rooney will grab the headlines because he scored the winner, but Wilshere’s first two goals for his country were absolute stunners.

Despite missing chances, Raheem Sterling looked threatening and Jordan Henderson played surprisingly well at right-back in the second half. A year on from England’s World Cup defeat against Italy in Manaus, they have ended the season with a comprehensive lead at the top of Group E after six matches.

Hodgson warned on the eve of the match that his players would face a stern test of their mental strength and he was right.

The atmosphere inside the stadium could not have been more different than the one they experienced in Dublin.

Behind the home goal, bare-chested supporters behind a “Ljubljana Ultras” flag shook the foundations of the Stadion Stozice. Hodgson’s team also had a different look to it, with Fabian Delph, Andros Townsend and Kieran Gibbs brought into the starting XI.

Hodgson stuck with Sterling, but his faith in the Liverpool forward initially looked misplaced.

The controversial 20-year-old found space in the box, but lifted the ball over the home goal.

Rooney then drew a top-class save from Handanovic. England were dominating, but they lacked the killer touch Hodgson had urged them to find.

England were made to pay for their profligacy when they went 1-0 down in the 38th minute.

Phil Jones’ set the ball rolling with a truly awful throw in, which went straight to a Slovenia player inside his own box. Slovenia shifted the ball up the pitch with alarming pace. Two moves later, Josip Ilicic had sent Novakovic clear. Gary Cahill failed to play Novakovic offside and he slotted the ball past the on-rushing Joe Hart.

England could not believe it.

Everyone was left scratching their heads when Hodgson shifted Henderson to right-back following the introduction of Adam Lallana for Jones.

In fairness to Hodgson, it proved to be a wise move.

Lallana twisted and turned past two defenders in the box. When another got his foot to the ball, it went straight to Wilshere and he banged the ball into the top right-hand corner.

Rooney missed two good chances but England were ahead again in the 73rd minute when Wilshere scored his second.

Henderson picked the ball up off Delph and sped down the right before cutting the ball back to Lallana. He flicked the ball into Wilshere, who took one touch before rifling a left-foot shot into the far corner. England fans rose to their feet to applaud.

Eleven minutes later, they were stunned as Slovenia equalised. Nejc Pecnik, a former flop at Sheffield Wednesday, headed home Bojan Jokic’s cross after losing Gibbs at the back post. England kept their composure though and blew the candles out on the home celebrations when Jokic slid in on substitute Theo Walcott and Rooney slotted home.

Slovenia: Handanovic, Brecko, Ilic, Cesar, Jokic, Ilicic (Birsa 61), Mertelj, Kurtic (Lazarevic 79), Kampl, Kirm (Pecnik 72 ), Novakovic. Subs: Andjelkovic, Samardzic, Beric, Oblak, Vidmar, Rotman, Milec, Verbic.

England: Hart, Jones (Lallana 45), Cahill, Smalling, Gibbs, Henderson, Wilshere, Delph (Clyne 85), Townsend (Walcott 74), Rooney, Sterling. Subs: Bertrand, Green, Jagielka, Milner, Austin, Cleverley, Barkley, Vardy, Heaton.

Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco.