Sport Soccer

Saturday 20 January 2018

Rooney rises above trouble and strife to end England drought

Switzerland 1
England 3

Henry Winter in Basle

DOG-HOUSE one minute, top dog the next. Wayne Rooney has serious domestic duties to attend to now but he returns home with the admiration of England's players and supporters for a performance of discipline and dynamism -- capped by a good goal. England's players again showed the doubters the talent in their midst, Steven Gerrard dominating the central ground and Adam Johnson excelling and scoring, while Darren Bent added a third.

Fabio Capello's men now return to their clubs with Rooney heading off for another test -- with her indoors -- and then at Goodison Park on Saturday.

As well as bringing some respite for Rooney, victory will have stirred particular pride elsewhere in Manchester, notably at Eastlands as England finished with six Manchester City players on the pitch. The only blemishes on a good night's work were Theo Walcott's ankle injury and a booking for James Milner, ruling him out of the next game.

England's next challenge comes at Wembley on October 12 against Montenegro, who have opened up brightly with Group G wins over Wales and then Bulgaria.

It had been the sort of rainy, potentially tricky night when sliding tacklers could have started in Switzerland and ended in France. All eyes were inevitably trained on Rooney, who began tucked in behind Jermain Defoe, seemingly circumspect in the challenge as if wanting to stay low profile. Not for long.

Even before their 10th-minute breakthrough, England were moving forward confidently.

Rarely can a goal have brought the scorer such pleasure. Rarely can Rooney have celebrated so little. He knew the cameras were on him. Also, Walcott was clearly in pain, the thoroughbred colt left lame by a collision in the build-up. A stretcher arrived and the Arsenal winger was wheeled away.

Johnson ran on and here was a reminder of what Capello left behind in the summer, the City winger sprinting through on goal, dragging the ball around Diego Benaglio and angling his shot into the net. Six points appeared in the bag. But Switzerland, depleted in numbers but not spirit after Stephan Lichtsteiner was sent-off for two bookings, responded. Xherdan Shaqiri escaped Ashley Cole and let fly from 25-yards.

Capello re-jigged to 4-2-3-1, with Bent the spearhead, and he struck swiftly and confidently. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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