Adam Lallana capped Sam Allardyce’s debut as England manager with a stoppage-time goal to secure a 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over 10-man Slovakia in Group F.
The Liverpool midfielder struck in the fifth minute of added on time in Trnava on Sunday to snatch all three points for the Three Lions, his low strike creeping under Matus Kozacik.
Lallana’s heroics saved England from a frustrating draw at the City Arena, the visitors having dominated possession against a lacklustre Slovakia.
It took 64 minutes for Wayne Rooney to register England’s first shot on target, but the visitors were relentless in piling on the pressure after Martin Skrtel was sent off following a series of fouls on Harry Kane.
Rooney – who became England’s most capped outfield player – saw a free-kick ripple the top of the net, and Lallana thudded a left-footed strike against the post as frustrations grew.
Substitute Daniel Sturridge wasted a glorious chance after replacing Kane, but his blushes were spared as Lallana netted his first international goal to secure the win.
England made an assertive start with good periods of possession but Allardyce’s side lacked quality in the final third, the visitors unable to test Kozacik in the Slovakia goal.
The hosts also lacked a cutting edge and the opening 20 minutes passed by with little worthy of note, although that changed midway through the half as Lallana and Kyle Walker made good ground down the England right.
A one-two released Walker but Kane missed his kick from five yards when trying to get on the end of his club-mate’s cross.
After wasting two promising free-kicks, Slovakia had to wait until the 37th minute for their best chance of the half. Danny Rose was caught in possession by Michal Duris inside his own penalty area, but the striker’s low cross just evaded Dusan Svento’s lunge.
Raheem Sterling flashed a shot across Kozacik’s goal before the break after good work from Kane, but both sides went into the interval having failed to register a shot on target.
Buoyed by that late chance England started the second half positively, and they found themselves with a man advantage just before the hour.
Slovakia captain Skrtel – who had been booked in the first half for throwing an arm at Kane – was shown a second yellow after stamping all over the Tottenham striker’s calf.
England’s threat slowly began to grow with Lallana and Sterling going close before Rooney – making his 116th appearance – finally registered England’s first shot on target.
The Manchester United forward then went agonisingly close with a 71st minute free-kick, before Lallana thudded a left-footed shot against the post.
Lallana and Sturridge could have snatched all three points late on but the Liverpool duo were wasteful, and when substitute Theo Walcott did beat Kozacik in stoppage time his effort was ruled out for offside.
England had one final chance, though, and Lallana duly accepted it, jinking free inside the penalty area to slot a low drive through the legs of Kozacik and give Allardyce a winning start.