Unstoppable Danny Welbeck scores two goals in England Euro clash with Switzerland
England stutter but Arsenal striker gets the goals to give Hodgson a Euro boost
Roy Hodgson spent a long time before last night's game standing in solitude, watching his players prepare in the country where his name was made in international football. It will take longer to persuade the English of the credibility of his hard-won reputation but victory over Switzerland was one step back in the right direction.
Victory in Basel against the world's ninth-best team in this Euro 2016 qualifier was the breathing space that Hodgson needed after a summer of pain. His tactical preparation was astute and, on the whole, his players delivered.
Once again, there was a case for putting the marvellous Raheem Sterling above them all, but even so the likes of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Joe Hart and Jordan Henderson ran him close.
Welbeck scored the two goals, the first borne of an electrifying combination between Rooney and Sterling and the Arsenal man typified the hard running of a well-drilled England team. They are a long way from being the cultured blend of power and passing the English dream of, but they do now at least have one significant triumph between them and that bloody awful World Cup. England were fortunate that Hart has found his confidence again and he was outstanding, so too Gary Cahill in the second half.
Hodgson selected a midfield diamond with Jack Wilshere at its base and distributing the ball well in the first half. Fabian Delph, a surprise pick on the left side of midfield got himself booked within nine minutes.
At the tip of the diamond was Sterling and on 15 minutes Steve von Bergen gave the ball away and allowed Sterling a run at goal down the centre. He seemed to ignore his attacker's instincts and instead of forcing the issue in the area against two back-pedalling centre-halves, elected to pass the ball early to Rooney whose right-footed shot did not trouble Yann Sommer.
It was the same for England on 29 minutes when Welbeck pinched the ball away from the hapless Von Bergen out on the right and bore down on goal. The new Arsenal striker does all the right things in his opponent's half, charging after defenders at a gallop and applying pressure all over the field. It is in the penalty area that his head can go at times and instead of shooting this time he struck a nervous cut-back which managed to elude both Rooney and Sterling.
At the start of the second half, it was Switzerland who were the more assured in possession but Hodgson's team picked them off on the counter-attack. Wilshere cut in from the left and had a shot just pushed wide of the post by Sommer. Sterling inexplicably missed the ball altogether after a swift move from Wilshere to Sterling and back to him from Henderson on the right opened up a chance.
Then, just before the hour Hart was again alert enough to stop a well-volleyed ball from Seferoviæ in the area. Then finally Hodgson's players got the break they needed.
The ball fell to the right people when Sterling's pressure got the ball away from Gökhan Inler and Rooney in turn played in Sterling down the left wing. Sterling slipped a fine ball to the far post where Welbeck arrived just in time, and onside, to put the ball in at the far corner.
The game opened up and at the other end, Cahill slid in on the line to stop a goalbound shot from the substitute Josip Drmic. Djourou got away with a foul on Delph that should have been a penalty.
But substitute Rickie Lambert teed up Welbeck for the second goal on the counter-attack. Hodgson can relax at last. He has won the hardest game in the group.