England’s brightest prospect Marcus Rashford came up trumps for his national team on Monday night, firing home the winner in a game where England were pushed all the way by opponents Slovakia.
The home nation found themselves 1-0 down three minutes in when Rashford was robbed of the ball in his own area, leading to Adam Nebec feeding Stanislav Lobotka over the top, who brought the ball down and poked the ball past on-loan West Ham keeper Joe Hart.
England Up The Tempo
England responded well, with Rashford’s shot being well smothered before striker Harry Kane saw his first sight of goal but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Dele Alli pulled a Rashford cross down on the edge of the area, but his second touch for a shot took the ball behind for a corner. Rashford then swapped wings from right to left and it immediately brought a spark into his game, dragging a shot wide from the edge of the area.
England did get their equaliser, from a rare set-piece, when Rashford’s near-post corner found the run of Eric Dier, the same type of run he made for his last-minute goal against Germany in 2016, and he swept the ball home with his right foot into the top corner.
The final bit of action in the first half came from Rashford, who cut inside from the left and his dipping effort from 20 yards had to be tipped behind by Martin Dubravka at his near post.
After the interval, captain Jordan Henderson, who many don’t see as the best choice for captaincy, sliced an effort wide after some good build-up between Alli and Rashford. Hart seemed to slightly redeem himself for all his past errors when a Marek Hamsik cross-field pass was brought down by Nemec, and his fizzing shot on the bounce was tipped over by the England keeper.
Rashford got his name on the score-sheet just before the hour through Henderson winning the ball in midfield and the 19-year-old picking it up 25 yards from goal. Reminiscent of a strike Cristiano Ronaldo would be proud of, with power and dip on the shot, Rashford drove the ball into the bottom corner, leaving Dubravka with no chance.
England were then happy to sit deep and allow Slovakia time on the ball, with the odd flurry forward. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was poor all game, went on a driving 50-yard run but saw his shot blocked, with substitute Raheem Sterling getting the last chance of the evening by cutting inside and seeing his deflected shot go into the arms of Dubravka.
England’s narrow win, pushed all the way, leaves them needing two points from their final two Qualifying games to book their place on the plane to Russia next summer.
FT: England 2-1 Slovakia (Dier 37, Rashford 59-Lobotka 3)
England XI: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Jones, Bertrand, Dier, Henderson, Rashford (Welbeck 84), Alli (Livermore 90+3), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Sterling 83), Kane. Unused substitutes: Smalling, Butland, Cresswell, Keane, Stones, Chalobah, Sturridge, Vardy, Heaton.
Slovakia XI: Dubravka, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan, Skriniar, Lobotka, Weiss (Rusnak 68), Hamsik (Duda 79), Mak, Nemek (Duris 69). Unused substitutes: Novota, Gyomber, Gregus, Mihalik, Polacek, Hrosovsky, Mazan, Sabo, Kucka.
MOTM: Marcus Rashford-Despite making an early mistake, the youngster did well to come back from it and he came back strongly. Had the opposition full-backs on strings all night, assisted Dier’s goal and scored the winner.
Feature Image credit: Cushdy