Tuesday 10 December 2019

Rooney on the mark but insipid England fail to inspire

England 1 Norway 0

Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring a from the penalty spot to give England the lead in the friendly against Norway at Wembley. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images
Wayne Rooney celebrates after scoring a from the penalty spot to give England the lead in the friendly against Norway at Wembley. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images
England's Raheem Sterling and Mats Moller Daehli of Norway compete for the ball during the friendly at Wembley. Photo: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
England defender John Stones is challenged by Ruben Yttergard Jenssen of Norway during the friendly at Wembley. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
England forward Daniel Sturridge sprints past Havard Nordtveit of Norway during the friendly at Wembley. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Wayne Rooney scores for England from the penalty spot during the friendly against Norway at Wembley. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images
England substitute Danny Welbeck runs clear of Omar Elabdellaoui of Norway during the friendly at Wembley. Photo: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Henry Winter

It was nervy, it was unconvincing, it was hardly a sparkling dawn of a new era and it was slightly undeserved but it was a win.

It was Wayne Rooney's 41st goal for England, a second-half penalty, that settled this modest friendly, and took him ahead of Michael Owen in the England all-time goalscoring list and closer to Jimmy Greaves' 44, Gary Lineker's 48 and Bobby Charlton's 49.

If Rooney's goal, taking him fourth, was another mark in the record books, this game was hardly one for the scrapbooks. Only Joe Hart's reflexes saved England early in the second half, twice denying Josh King. Raheem Sterling's electric pace, initially out wide in a 4-4-2 and then at the tip of a diamond, gave England hope heading to Switzerland on Monday for the opening Euro 2016 qualifier.

Two others impressed: John Stones, barring one mistake when marking King, and Fabian Delph, a bristling presence when coming on in midfield. But Norway were average, England were underwhelming and the overwhelming impression was that those tens of thousands who stayed away made the right call.

It was only when Rooney drilled in that penalty after 68 minutes that Wembley relaxed, and a initiated a Mexican Wave.

This was hardly a great night. At half-time, Wembley's screens had shown close-up shots of individual fans and they must have been getting close to showing all of them by the re-start. Even the England band were missing a few notes.

Even with a real late push on the ticket front, Wembley was below half-full, officially given as 40,181, just creeping above the psychological 40,000 and including the Club Wembley debenture denizens, who had paid but were not necessarily present.

A leaden first half, ambitiously described as "interesting" by the announcer at the interval, ended with Rooney's travails continuing with an attempted pass out wide to Stones hurtling out for a goal-kick.

Rooney's night got better with 20 minutes remaining when he dispatched a penalty after Sterling was fouled. It raised a cheer although, in keeping with the night, it was muted. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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