Date:Tuesday October 15 2013
Being the masters of your own destiny is all you can ask for really, right?
That was exactly what England were faced with tonight at Wembley - the equation was simple beat Poland and we would be going to the world cup finals in Brazil next summer, anything less and it would be the play-offs to decide our fate...
We got that win, which our play deserved with a 2-0 win to ensure we were off to the finals despite the Ukraine winning (as expected) against San Marino.
As for the line-up, with Walker out Hodgson decided to bring in Smalling at right back, which to be honest is what I thought he would do as much as I rate Jones. The other chance saw Lampard taken out, with Carrick brought in.
To be honest I would again agree with Lampard being taken out as Friday and Tuesday games might have proven too much but think I might have gone with Wilshere instead as Carrick seemed a little 'too safe' for me?
18,000 Polish fans (and the rest) made themselves well heard, they were very vocal in the opening minutes of the game with the best way to silence them being an early goal but England and early goals at Wembley do not go hand in hand.
I think it was said that it was something like 3-years since we had scored a goal in the opening 20-minutes or so, but how an early goal would have settled the nerves!
Welbeck almost got this...
A good teasing ball in by Baines had to be well cut out by a Polish defender, just beating the Man United man to this and putting it behind for a corner. This came to nothing with Poland breaking well and Lewandowski having a go, but this shot was straight at Hart.
Townsend continued where he left off on Friday night, creating himself a an opening just but his effort was well saved by Szczesny, although he could only palm the ball out but Sturridge could not quite get enough on his dive to test him with the rebound.
An encouraging opening 10-minutes to the game I must say, and if you were a neutral you would be hoping that the open minutes of the game set the tone...
Sobiech had Polish fans cheering when he fashioned an opening but his effort was into the side netting and not the bottom corner, which Hart had covered.
A little over 20-minutes on the clock, Ukraine already 2-0 up, what a glorious chance came England's way! Gerrard put in a testing freekick, the latest Poland had conceded around the box, with just a touch needed but Smalling failed to manage this when he really should have done better, concerns about him being offside or not.
Soon after it was an England let off. Poland broke, all too easily albeit quickly, and Lewandowski found himself in. Usually you would put money on him but he dragged his effort wide, a reminder was given to England that we might be 'so close' but could easily become 'so far' if we were not careful.
One-nil England... but no, it was not as it came back off the bar!
A cracking, curling Townsend effort had Szczesny beaten all ends up but it cannoned back off the bar. The rebound came to Sturridge but he could not beat Szczesny, who saved well.
The pressure was being cranked up and when Baines got in he could not quite pick out a ball into the box, with a corner coming from it. This was a testing ball into the box that eventually fell to Welbeck, with the goal crying out his wild swing just shot the ball wide.
Surely it was not going to be 'one of those nights' for England, was it?
It was all England, the latest break involved good interplay between Gerrard and his Liverpool teammate Sturridge. A first time ball in from the captain put Sturridge in but he could not quite get the ball under control and this allowed Szczesny to get down well and deny him.
Get in there!
A lead that was definitely deserved came just before the break. Another chance for Baines to deliver came along, and he put in a great ball that Rooney controlled such a good head to and he steered it into the goal on 40-minutes to make it 1-0 England.
What a fine team goal it was.
Poland thought they have levelled just before the break but Sobiech was already well flagged offside before he turned and finished into the net.
Half time - 1-0 England, at this stage we are off to Brazil...
A sloppy start to the 2nd half could have quite easily seen England punished with Poland starting it strongly with half time sub Klich heavily involved and causing problems, once effort importantly blocked out for a corner.
Having weathered that opening few minutes storm we then started asserting ourselves again and looked threatening going forward, breaking well with Szczesny forced into another smart save to keep Poland in the game.
It so nearly become two when a defensive clearance, well attempted one was nearly diverted into his own net before Gerrard dragged an effort horribly wide from range when we have come to expect better.
Again we were given a reminder of how fragile our lead is when Lewandowski beat the offside flag to get in behind the England defence but Hart was out quickly to get an important block to his effort with the defence then hacking it away...
Rooney tried his luck again at the midway stage of the half; a curling effort from range was destined for the corner but was well turned away once again by Szczesny, with him then doing likewise to deny Welbeck later in the half.
A place at the world cup finals was confirmed just minutes from the end when Gerrard broke in box, holding off his marker and jinking it over Szczesny and into the back of the net in the 88th minute to make it 2-0.
The win was something we definitely deserved, another impressive showing of attacking intent secure us the 2-0 win and we can now look forward to the draw later in the year and start planning for Rio as we are going to the world cup!
Vital England on:
Vital England on:
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Date:Tuesday October 15 2013