England seal World Cup Place in Russia
Written By: Robert Halter
England looked to secure their place in the World Cup Finals in Russia with a victory over Slovenia at Wembley stadium, beginning of October and end their qualifying campaign with the Three Lions topping Group F. After Slovenia absorbed the early England pressure, Rene Krhin slid the ball through to Josip Ilicic, but the Three Lions shot stopper, Joe Hart, made a brave block. A rash challenge by Krhin on Jordan Henderson, was not well received on thirteen minutes. Then a minute later, the appointed England captain, Harry Kane, manoeuvred around the Slovenians, before striking a dipping shot that Jan Oblak in goal, collected at his near right post. But a poor header from Kyle Walker fell to Andraz Sporar, but his strike was comfortably caught by Hart, on the quarter of the hour mark. England responded when Marcus Rashford combined with Raheem Sterling, whose whipped in delivery was just too far out for the outstretched leg of Gary Cahill. In the nineteenth minute, Ilicic’s delivery went to Roman Bezjak, in an unmarked position, who could not find the target with his right boot. On twenty six minutes, from Rashford’s inventive play, a low drive by Henderson, was turned behind the right post by Oblak. Following Krhin hacking down Sterling, there was too much swerve on Walker’s free kick, after thirty five minutes. Later from a Rashford corner, a header by Cahill, was deflected over the top right corner by Sporar. After Miha Mevlja got cautioned for a foul on Rashford, who fired in a free kick that Oblak, turned away from his left post, and from the resulting corner by Rashford, a right footed back heel by Cahill, went over, just before half time. Slovenia were the fastest out of the traps for the second half as Sporar linked up with Ilicic, whose delivery to the back stick was met with a near post header by Bojan Jokic, and after making a fumble, Hart kept the ball out with both hands. Slovenia later changed Sporar with Valter Birsa. A miss placed pass by Walker gave the ball away to Birsa, but Eric Dier rescued the situation, by slicing the ball out of play. Walker then combined with Henderson, and as the ball went over, Kane lost his footing in range of the target, on the hour mark. In the sixty third minute, England edged closer, as Sterling paved the way for Rashford, who chipped the ball over Oblak, before the ball was cleared away from an empty goal by Rajko Rotman. England then switched Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Jesse Lingard. The England offense threatened again, when a cross by Ryan Bertrand was diverted by Bostjan Cesar, who also rescued the situation to block the rebound from Sterling. There was further pressure from The Three Lions as Rashford found Sterling, whose strike was blocked by Cesar, before the ball was driven wide by Kane. Another Slovenia change was made when Bezjak was taken off for Jan Repas before a final change was made with Tim Matavz replacing Rotman. On seventy nine minutes, Kane’s over the top delivery could not be controlled by Lingard, in sight of the goal. But Slovenia had a golden opportunity when Ilicic slid the ball through to Matavz, before Hart made a brave close range stop in the area, before a foul was given on the goalkeeper. Sterling was then replaced with Michael Keane. In stoppage time, Kane’s tame strike deflected off Cesar, as scrambling across to his left, Oblak made the save. After Oblak kept out a raking strike from Walker through an assist by Rashford, the deadlock was finally broken after four minutes of added time, when from a poor throw out by Oblak, the Slovenia goalkeeper was punished when the ball found Walker, whose delivery into the box, was connected to with a first time strike by Kane, which could not be kept out by Oblak, as the ball spun into the centre of the next. A delighted England manager, Gareth Southgate had guided England to a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup finals in Russia with one remaining game left in group, away to Lithuania, while matches were booked at Wembley in November with world champions Germany and Brazil.