Two super strikes from Jack Wilshere helped England to a 3-2 win over Slovenia in Ljubljana to maintain their winning run.
A superb brace from Jack Wilshere and a late winner from Wayne Rooney sealed England’s sixth win in six qualifying matches as they came from behind to beat Slovenia 3-2 in a thrilling encounter and all but seal their place at Euro 2016.
Roy Hodgson had said before the game that he would take a lucky win, but he would have been pleased by the overall performance of his team, which was a marked improvement from their dour 0-0 draw at Ireland last week, although it was not without some concerns.
England came out of the blocks quickly as Raheem Sterling, who had by far his game in several months, missed a great chance three minutes in, while Rooney forced Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic into a fine save midway through the first-half.
Despite controlling proceedings, some sub-standard defending saw England caught on the break, allowing Milivoje Novaković to run in behind and finish to put Slovenia in front on 37 minutes.
Hodgson, often regarded as a highly cautious manager, replaced the injured Phil Jones at half-time with Adam Lallana to give England more attacking creativity, and it proved to be an inspired decision as Lallana was heavily involved in both of Wilshere’s goals, both of them brilliant long-range strikes.
With England back in front with fifteen minutes remaining, the three lions appeared to be home and dry, especially as Slovenia were offering little going forward. Perhaps England believed that themselves however, as Slovenia equalised with six minutes left, substitute Nejc Pecnik rising brilliantly to meet a cross and power home the header beyond Joe Hart.
Having pulled it back to 2-2, it was then Slovenia’s turn to fluff up at the back, as a misplaced pass saw the ball fall kindly for Rooney who, despite missing several good chances beforehand, made no mistake on this occasion as he bagged his 48th England goal, putting him just one behind Bobby Charlton’s all-time England record, and capping off an important win for the three lions.
The result continues England’s 100% record in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, putting them on the verge of sealing their place in France next summer with four games still to play. Truth be told, England’s place in the Euros seemed assured as soon as the qualifying draw was made 18 months ago, with only Switzerland and to a lesser extent Slovenia offering England a small modicum of competition in their group. One way or another though, England have done everything that has been asked of them so far, and long may that continue.
Also in Group E, Switzerland came from behind to win 2-1 in Lithuania. The result moves them to second in the group, six points behind England, with Slovenia a further three points back. With four games left for everyone, England’s place at the Euros looks as good as confirmed.
Elsewhere reigning European Champions Spain picked up a narrow 1-0 win in Belarus, though they remain second in Group C as Slovakia made it six wins from six with a 2-1 over Macedonia. In Group G, Austria and Sweden both made huge strides towards qualification with victories over Russia and Montenegro respectively.
UEFA Euro 2016 Qualifying Results:
Group C: Belarus 0-1 Spain, Slovakia 2-1 Macedonia, Ukraine 3-0 Luxembourg
Group E: Estonia 2-0 San Marino, Lithuania 1-2 Switzerland, Slovenia 2-3 England
Group G: Liechtenstein 1-1 Moldova, Russia 0-1 Austria, Sweden 3-1 Montenegro