Rooney pumped up, tiny San Marino too

The Star Early Edition - - SOCCER -

PARIS: Eng­land and reign­ing cham­pi­ons Spain both se­cured home vic­to­ries in Euro 2016 qual­i­fy­ing on Satur­day as some of the con­ti­nent’s min­nows again en­joyed out­stand­ing re­sults.

A turgid Group E en­counter be­tween Eng­land and Slove­nia at Wem­b­ley came to life in the sec­ond half as Roy Hodg­son’s side fought back to win 3-1 and make it four wins from four games in Group E to re­main firmly on track for a place at the fi­nals in France.

Slove­nia took the lead just be­fore the hour mark when Jor­dan Hen­der­son headed into his own net, but Eng­land were back on level terms mo­ments later thanks to Wayne Rooney, who won and then con­verted a penalty to mark the oc­ca­sion of his 100th in­ter­na­tional ap­pear­ance with his 44th goal for his coun­try. Danny Wel­beck of Arse­nal then net­ted a brace to seal the vic­tory.

“It was a good day in the end. We had to show character and that will be good for us in the team. Since the World Cup, we haven’t faced that (go­ing be­hind),” said Rooney, as Eng­land now turn their thoughts to to­mor­row’s friendly with Scot­land in Glas­gow.

Spain will go into a friendly with World Cup win­ners Ger­many fresh from a rou­tine 3-0 vic­tory against Be­larus in Group C, a re­sult that saw the cur­rent Euro­pean cham­pi­ons make it three wins from four qual­i­fiers.

Real Madrid mid­fielder Isco marked his first start for La Roja by scor­ing a bril­liant first-half opener and Barcelona duo Ser­gio Bus­quets and Pe­dro Ro­driguez added fur­ther goals in a game played in the south­ern town of Huelva.

“We played well, we dom­i­nated the match and scored twice in the first half which gave us a cer­tain peace of mind,” said Spain coach Vi­cente del Bosque.

Mean­while, after the Faroe Is­lands recorded a stun­ning 1-0 win in Greece on Fri­day, prompt­ing the demise of Clau­dio Ranieri as coach of the 2004 Euro­pean cham­pi­ons, San Marino and Liecht­en­stein claimed fa­mous re­sults of their own.

San Marino, ranked 208th and joint­last in the world by Fifa along­side Bhutan, ended a run of 61 con­sec­u­tive de­feats by hold­ing Es­to­nia to a 0-0 draw at home in Group E.

After see­ing his side gain their first ever point in a Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship qual­i­fier and avoid de­feat in a com­pet­i­tive match for the first time since 2001, San Marino coach Pierangelo Man­zaroli said: “This re­sult is a re­ward for the play­ers and it will be an in­cen­tive to gain other good re­sults sooner than in 13 years’ time.”

Liecht­en­stein fared even bet­ter, a sec­ond-half goal by cap­tain Franz Burgmeier se­cur­ing a 1-0 vic­tory in Moldova in Group G.

The tiny principality with a pop­u­la­tion of un­der 40000 had not won a com­pet­i­tive match since June 2011 and had not won on their trav­els in a qual­i­fy­ing fix­ture in over a decade.

In con­trast, Europe’s largest na­tion Rus­sia went down 1-0 in Aus­tria in the same group to in­crease the pres­sure on coach Fabio Capello. The only goal of the game in Vi­enna was scored by 1860 Mu­nich’s Pak­istan-born striker Ru­bin Okotie in the 73rd minute, mo­ments after of­fi­cials had deemed that another ef­fort by the same player had not crossed the line.

The re­sult comes a month after Rus­sia were held at home by Moldova and days after the coun­try’s foot­ball union said they could no longer af­ford to pay Capello’s huge an­nual salary, be­lieved to be around € 7-mil­lion.

Aus­tria are now four points clear at the top of the group from Swe­den, who were held to a 1-1 draw in Mon­tene­gro. Cap­tain Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic marked his first start in a com­pet­i­tive match for almost two months after in­jury by giv­ing the vis­i­tors an early lead, but he later struck the post from a free-kick be­fore Ste­van Jovetic equalised from the penalty spot 10 min­utes from time.

Else­where, Ukraine claimed their third con­sec­u­tive win in Group C as An­driy Yar­molenko scored a sec­ond­half hat-trick to se­cure a 3-0 vic­tory in Lux­em­bourg.

Ukraine and Spain are three points be­hind Slo­vakia, who con­tin­ued their per­fect record in the qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign by de­feat­ing Mace­do­nia 2-0 in Skopje thanks to first-half goals by Ju­raj Kucka and Adam Ne­mec.

And in Eng­land’s Group E Switzer­land beat Lithua­nia 4-0 thanks to four sec­ond-half goals, in­clud­ing two from Bay­ern Mu­nich's Xher­dan Shaqiri. – Sapa-AFP

PIC­TURE:AP

WELL WORTH A FIST PUMP: Wayne Rooney cel­e­brates after scor­ing in Eng­land’s 3-1 win Slove­nia at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium, London on Satur­day. This was his 44th goal in his 100th match for Eng­land.

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