Tuesday, 15 October 2013

England 2-0 Poland

'Look at him go,' exclaimed one particularly fawning co-commentator to describe Andros Townsend. It was another stirring performance from the young man, but it was the more experienced pair of Wayne Rooney and captain Steven Gerrard who sealed England's passage to Rio.

It was a nervy night at Wembley, with Poland settling the quicker, but Rooney's 41st minute header and Gerrard's 88th minute goal rounded off two halves of football that unfolded in similar manners.

England were early on proving susceptible to fast counter attacks, with the central pairing of Gerrard and Michael Carrick slow at getting back occasionally and after a relatively uneventful opening 15 minutes Waldemar Sobota hit a warning shot for England to tighten up with an effort that under-pressure keeper Joe Hart saw wide at his near post.

Eight minutes later Dortmund hotshot Robert Lewandowski came even closer with a shot that he pulled just wide, and perhaps might have slotted home had he been draped in his club colours.

England's newest starlet Townsend however was finding plenty of space down the right-hand side and was injecting the home side's attacks with some much-needed vigour and trickery.

The Spurs winger gave Wojciech Szczesny his first real scare in the Poland goal around 25 minutes in with a wonderful curling effort after he cut inside. Townsend hit the bar, and Daniel Sturridge forced a good save from the follow-up.

Everton left-back Leighton Baines was getting even more space down the opposite flank, and also proved useful with his customary set plays - a corner of his gave Daniel Welbeck an opportunity from six yards which the Man United man spurned.

Wayne Rooney also was proving a menace, as he forced another good save from the Arsenal keeper Szczesny.

Baines and Rooney were not to be denied however, as a pinpoint delivery from one of Baines' many forays forward gave Rooney the chance to head home a priceless goal as England got the goal their most recent efforts had deserved.

Just on half time Sobota had a tight offside decision go against him as he thought he had levelled Poland up.

The second half followed a similar trajectory with Poland putting some early pressure on the England goal. Lewandowski almost gobbled up Poland's best chance of the match on the hour mark as he lost Gary Cahill, forcing Hart to rush out and make himself big - sticking out a valuable arm to protect England's lead.

Again however, Poland's influence on the game waned and England took back control. Rooney and Sturridge both forced good saves from Szczcesny.

Frank Lampard, Jack Wilshere and James Milner were all brought on as Roy Hodgson looked to push on and get a second goal.

That second goal arrived as Gerrard fought his way past a couple of defenders on one of his typical bursts forward to dink the ball over the on-rushing Sczczseny.

The final whistle brought relief all round - Ukraine's expected 8-0 trouncing of San Marino meant that only a win would do for England if they wanted automatic qualification. That win came in relative comfort, the group leaders remaining unbeaten.

England: Hart, Smalling, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines, Carrick (Lampard, 71), Gerrard, Townsend (Milner, 86), Rooney, Welbeck, Sturridge (Wilshere, 82). Unused subs: Ruddy, Jones, Gibbs, Barkley, Defoe, Sterling, Lambert, Forster.

Poland: Szczesny, Wojtkowiak, Jedrzejczyk, Glik, Celeban, Blaszczykowski, Mierzejewski (Zielinski, 75), Krychowiak, Sobota (Peszko 65), Mariusz Lewandowski (Klich, 45), Robert Lewandowski. Unused subs: Boruc, Wasilewski, Jodlowiec, Polanski, Wawrzyniak, Sobiech, Rzezniczak, Fabianski.

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

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