Sunday, September 24, 2017

England 2-1 Slovakia: Rashford winner brings Three Lions closer to qualification

Ashley Randall in Editorial, World Cup 4 Sep 2017

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Marcus Rashford scored the winner for England as they came from behind to beat Slovakia 2-1 in a World Cup 2017 qualifier at Wembley tonight.

Stanislav Lobotka had put the away side into a shock lead in the 3rd minute only for goals from Eric Dier and Rashford to complete the comeback.

The result means England only need one more point from their remaining two games to qualify automatically for the tournament next summer.

First Half

The Three Lions had won their previous 12 home qualifiers and hadn’t lost a game at Wembley since a 1-0 defeat to Germany in 2000.

However, they got off to the worst possible start when Rashford was caught in possession just outside his own penalty area, allowing Lobotka to play a neat one-two with Adam Nemec and slot the ball past a hapless Joe Hart.

England looked shell-shocked and seemed surprised that Slovakia were attacking with intent with the Three Lions penned in their own half.

Midway through the first period, Slovakia took their foot off the gas and allowed Gareth Southgate’s men more time on the ball, which they were soon to regret.

A mishit Rashford corner in the 37th minute found Dier at the near-post and a sleeping Slovakia defence watched as he half-volleyed the ball past keeper Martin Dubravka.

It was justification for England after Harry Kane had stayed on his feet just seconds earlier when a clumsy challenge in the area could have easily been a spot kick.

Suddenly, England could smell blood and a rampant Rashford tested Dubravka from long range who managed to save at his near post.

Slovakia felt the home team should have been reduced to 10 men just before half-time when Vladimir Weiss skipped away from Gary Cahill and ran towards the goal one-on-one, only for Kyle Walker to take his opponent clean out without winning any of the ball.

Second Half

England started the second-half with much of the same intent and Dele Alli was demonstrating great movement off the ball in attacking positions, especially when he played a one-two with Rashford to set Jordan Henderson up who dragged his shot just wide.

However, Hart had to be at his very best in the 55th minute when great build up play from Slovakia resulted in Marek Hamsik crossing the ball to Nemec who chested the ball beautifully inside the box and fired a volley towards goal.

It was the only real chance Jan Kozak’s side had in the second-half and soon after England carved another opportunity. Kane wriggled his way past two defenders in the box and drove the ball across goal only for the keeper to parry it to Alli, but the youngster could only watch as it bounced off him and out of play.

As the 60th minute approached, the game was left for Rashford to score his first goal for England at Wembley and make atonement for his earlier mistake.

Neat interchange in the middle of the park between Alli and captain Henderson meant the Manchester United attacker was able to find space outside the edge of the area before shooting a rasping drive into the far corner of the net.

The game petered out in the final third with England dominating possession and looking comfortable while Slovakia seemed to run out of steam and ideas.

It was an important victory for the Three Lions and means they can qualify for the World Cup next summer with a point at home to Slovenia in October.

England: Hart 7, Walker 7, Cahill 7, Jones 7, Betrand 7, Henderson 7, Dier 8, Oxlade-Chamberlain 7 (Sterling 6), Alli 8 (Livermore 4), Rashford 8 (Welbeck 5), Kane 7.

Subs not used: Heaton, Butland, Stones, Chalobah, Vardy, Smalling, Cresswell, Sturridge, Keane.

Slovakia: Dubravka 6, Pekarik 6, Skrtel 6, Durica 6, Hubocan 6, Weiss 7 (Rusnak 6), Skriniar 6, Hamsik 7 (Duda 6), Mak 6, Lobotka 7, Nemec 7 (Duris 6).

Subs not used: Novota, Polacek, Gyomber, Mazan, Gregus, Mihalik, Hrosovsky, Sabo, Kucka.

Referee: Clement Turpin

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Randall


Ash is a freelance football writer who lives, breathes and dreams the beautiful game. A lifelong Wolverhampton Wanderers season ticket holder, if he isn't at Molineux then he will be watching any game on television that he can set his eyes on. Producing work for various football websites and publications, Ash has also written for regional newspapers and global magazines.

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