Belfast Telegraph

We can rely on Wayne Rooney to deliver, says Hodgson

By Sam Wallace

Roy Hodgson said that Wayne Rooney demonstrated his new maturity yesterday by picking himself up from a blatant elbow to score the winning goal against Slovenia and take himself to within a goal of Sir Bobby Charlton's all-time England record of 49.

Moments before his winning goal in the 3-2 victory over Slovenia, Rooney was poleaxed by an elbow from the opposing captain, Bostjan Cesar, and protested loudly to the referee in the aftermath. He picked himself up to run on to a pass from substitute Theo Walcott for the goal which gave England their sixth straight victory in Euro 2016 qualifying, leaving them nine points clear at the top of Group E.

Rooney has history with Cesar, who accused him of injuring his ankle during a friendly against Slovenia at Wembley in 2009. The England captain is now equal on 48 goals with Gary Lineker.

Hodgson said: "Wayne Rooney's performance says a lot of things about him as a man. Just before he took that chance he took a nasty blow from an elbow, which could have decked many a player and led to him losing his discipline. It didn't and he got up.

"The fact one or two chances had gone begging, when the ball fell to him he still stuck it away with aplomb. We can rely on that man. I'd have liked him to get a hat-trick so all the talk of the record would be finished, but he has plenty of time."

Hodgson defended his decision to play Jordan Henderson as a second-half right-back, with Nathaniel Clyne only a late substitute. Hodgson said Phil Jones, who played the first half at right-back, had injured his ankle in a collision with Jack Wilshere and had to come off. He brought on Adam Lallana so as not to lose the opportunity to introduce an attacking player.

Hodgson said: "We wanted to keep as many attacking subs up our sleeves.

"A right-back for a right-back, we feared we might lose an important player we might throw on later in the game. He's done the job before. He said he'd be comfortable, which gave us the opportunity to bring Lallana on. We could still cope defensively."

Hodgson agreed the second of Wilshere's two goals was one of the best during his three years in charge of the team, comparing it with Andy Carroll's header against Sweden at Euro 2012.

"I remember Andy Carroll's bullet header, but I'm very happy with Jack and the goals he's scored. In particular, with his performance.

"In the second half, controlling that midfield, was a performance we've seen from him for a while now. If we can keep him fit and he can get plenty of Premier League matches and international matches, at his young age we think we've got a good player going forward."

Wilshere said: "It's nice to get my first goals for England, they have been a long time coming. I probably wouldn't have had a shot for the second one if I hadn't already scored, but after I'd scored one I had more confidence.

"I have said I need to score more goals, it is something I need to add to my game."

Belfast Telegraph