By Michael Hann
England manager Roy Hodgson conceded his side played some “sterlie” football but still felt they were worthy winners after recovering to beat Slovenia 3-1 in their Euro 2016 Group E qualifier at Wembley on Saturday.
On a Wembley pitch scarred from last weekend’s NFL game between Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys, an insipid England failed to get anywhere near Slovenia’s ‘end zone’ in the first half and fell behind in the 57th minute when Jordan Henderson headed Milivoje Novakovic’s free kick past Joe Hart.
Striker Wayne Rooney, celebrating his 100th cap, got England out of jail two minutes later, converting a penalty after being fouled in the box and Danny Welbeck completed the turnaround for Hodgson’s men with a quickfire double.
“Games last 90 minutes and you don’t always get exactly what you want from the first minute,” Hodgson told a news conference.
“I thought in the first half we dominated but it was a little bit sterile at times. We weren’t getting the penetration we were looking for or creating the clear-cut chances we were looking for.
“In the second half, especially after Wayne’s quick equalising goal, I thought the game suddenly opened up.
“I thought we played much better and in the end I thought we were good value for our three goals and good value for our victory.”
England captain Rooney was presented with a symbolic golden cap in a glass case before kickoff by Bobby Charlton and Hodgson paid tribute to the Manchester United striker.
“It was a wonderful evening for him,” said Hodgson. “He is very important to English football. I thought it was very fitting that he was able to get his reward on the night when it was all about him.”
England, who have won all four of their Group E fixtures and lead the standings with 12 points, play Scotland in a friendly at Celtic Park on Tuesday and Hodgson will rotate his squad after releasing goalkeeper Joe Hart.
“We have got players that I would like to see and there is potential for me to change things,” he said. “But it’s not going to be a question of sending the bulk of these players home because Scotland is a tough game and we want to go up there with a big team.”
Dutchman Dick Advocaat has stepped down as Serbia coach after a 3-1 home defeat by Denmark in the Euro 2016 qualifiers, the Balkan nation’s football association (FSS) said on Saturday.
“The FSS wishes to thank Advocaat as he has shown utmost professionalism and we are disappointed that our cooperation with him ended so abruptly,” the soccer governing body said.
“We wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”
Advocaat said: “The pressure which was everywhere to be seen was too much to bear by this team and I had never faced such a difficult situation in my entire career.
“Serbia have to move on immediately and find a better way and I thank the FSS for their support throughout.”
Defeat by the Danes in an empty stadium left Serbia’s qualification hopes in the balance.