England moved a step closer to qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia as they beat Slovakia and moved five points clear at the top of their group. Things did not go well at the beginning for England as the Slovakians came out of the trap like greyhounds.
England laboured and toiled as they forgot all the good football that had got them up to this point in the qualifiers. However that changed in the 37th minute when Eric Dier swept the ball home from a corner to bring England level.
In the second half Adam Nemec almost restored Slovakia’s lead as he hit a first time volley from a cross, which was saved by Hart.
Rashford atoned for his error just before the hour mark when Jordan Henderson played him in. Harry Kane and Dele Alli darted in different directions to open up the goal for the Manchester United youngster who duly obliged and took a shot, which flew past Martin Dubravka to give the Three Lions the lead. England had further chances to extend their lead including chances from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and second half substitute Raheem Sterling.
Jan Kozac the Slovakian coach said: “In the first half we caught England off guard. I think we handled their quality well. Against such an opposition you need luck. You need to convert two of three chances. We still have the situation in our won hands. It will be difficult. Hopefully the result against Scotland will be better than today. Everyone left everything on the pitch today.”
Gareth Southgate said: It was a big week for them. To go behind and come back was good. The crowd could have turned against them at one down. I am really pleased. In the second half we controlled the game really well. I am proud of what the team have done. I think they showed maturity. We did not start the game well and were completely stretched. In the second half we got it right. I felt we kept the ball well at 2-1. It was not a case of hanging on and we were panicking.
On Rashford he said: “Having worked with him he is such a mature character. The start surprised me. He adapted well to the switch. He is never overawed by the occasion. He is still a work in progress as we saw at the beginning of the game. He is getting stronger. His impact of getting us up the pitch was not only great for the team but the crowd as well. The crowd played a big part by sticking with us when we needed them.”