By Adam David
Roy Hodgson’s England side achieved victory in their Sunday evening encounter with Estonia thanks to England captain Wayne Rooney’s 73rd minute free kick. Aware of the potential fallout a draw could have had on the momentum England has recently accumulated, England manager Roy Hodgson can ultimately be pleased with his team’s performance. England now sit comfortably at the top of group B with four successive victories in a row, the first of such in half a decade.
Nevertheless, despite such positives, England’s first half performance was one that lacked purposefulness and accurate finishing. England’s build up play was at times slow and chances created were often snatched at. After an early Estonia scare, England gathered momentum but veteran International England captain Wayne Rooney struggled to fulfil his responsibility, missing successive chances created for the 28 year-old Manchester United forward. Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere was nonetheless the writer’s stand out player of the first half, continuing to make his trademark busts of incisive acceleration into the Estonian lineup and was unlucky to see his delicately lofted balls squandered by his England counterparts. The first half certainly showed potential, but perhaps because of the fatigue of Wednesday’s fixture, they ultimately lacked the necessary quality in the final third.
The beginning of the second half seemed to be a renewed image of the preceding half. Despite England’s possession, they continued to stutter in exploiting their build up play outside the Estonian penalty box. However, the eventual contrast in quality between the two teams prevailed when an awkward challenge from Estonian captain Ragnar Klavan saw their talisman receive his second yellow. The introduction of lightning pace in the forms of Raheem Sterling and Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain added new impetus to a travelling England squad that continued to probe. As pressure continued to build, the now depleted Estonian defence absorbed further onslaught before another poor tackle saw Rooney given the chance of a free kick just outside the Estonian penalty box. His curled effort proved too much for the Estonian keeper Sergie Parieko, unable to stop the England striker moving to within 6 goals of England legend Bobby Charlton. Now a goal up, England’s defence became obsolete as Estonia employed a policy of damage limitation, intent on absorbing England’s remaining attacking impetus. Roy Hodgson’s England side were incapable of adding further to the scoreboard and settled for the one-nil victory margin.
Despite England’s inability to exploit the chances it created, Roy Hodgson can still be pleased with England’s overall performance. Less than four days since their match with European minnows San Marino, England have flown to Eastern Europe and secured another victory in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. They have secured this victory not through an array of goals, but at least through perseverance. Through the struggle, the England manager has been graced with another opportunity to further the development of his young talent, most notably shown in the performances of midfielder Jack Wilshere and the late cameos of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Raheem Sterling. At the same time, Rooney continues to learn the ropes as captain. This victory was by no means definitive but can certainly be treated as another positive step forward in England’s post-World Cup recovery and its journey towards Paris 2016.