England 2-1 Slovenia: Three Lions Stutter To Wembley Win

Heskeyy A Frank Lampard penalty and a long-ranger from Jermain Defoe put England on course for a 2-1 win over Slovenia in a game that offers coach Fabio Capello much food for thought ahead of the Group 6 World Cup 2010 qualifier against Croatia midweek.

Despite home advantage and a strong squad on paper, the Three Lions looked less than convincing over the course of the match, squandering some gilt-edged chances and also giving away a late goal to Zlatan Ljubijankic.

In a match that many anticipated would start with a slow pace, it was soon apparent that the Slovenians were not at Wembley just to make up the numbers. Slovenia started the game more aggressively than England, and were more than willing to pile players forward in numbers.

Fabio Capello will have been reminded of England’s early defensive nervousness against Holland when Robert Green clearly handled the ball outside of the area on three minutes, and was fortunate that the incident was missed by the officials.

England’s first noticeable attack came in the fourth minute when Aleksander Radosavljevic fouled Emile Heskey on the edge of the area.  Frank Lampard took the resulting free kick, and although his cross come shot was less than threatening, it highlighted a potential weakness in the Slovenian defence as Samir Handanovic punched the ball away unconvincingly.

Slovenia looked to press, and on six minutes Zlatko Dedic was put through on goal. The forward attempted to round Green, but the goalkeeper got enough on the ball to disturb his run, resulting in his subsequent shot flying over the crossbar from roughly eight yards.

With the match almost 15 minutes underway, England appeared to step-up a gear.  A series of quick interchanging passes sent Steven Gerrard through on goal, only for the Slovenian defence to clear for a corner in which England failed to capitalise on.  Slovenia continued to look dangerous, with Johnson exposed once more when Jokic latched onto a well placed pass, only for his subsequent cross to be claimed by Green.

On 21 minutes Wayne Rooney meandered brilliantly through the Slovenian defence, only for his subsequent shot to be deflected out for a corner.  Lampard whipped in the corner and John Terry hit the bar with a powerful header, before attempting a bicycle kick from the rebound which flew harmlessly wide.

Approaching the half hour mark, Bostjan Cesar was adjudged to have hauled down Rooney in the box, presenting Lampard with a goal scoring opportunity from the spot.  Lampard, calm and composed, drilled the ball home into the bottom left corner to score his fifteenth goal for his country.  Cesar, injured during the confrontation with Rooney, was replaced on 35 minutes by Matej Mavric and will feel aggrieved by the decision.

England came close to doubling their lead moments later when the ball fell to Rooney two yards from goal, only for the Manchester United striker to find his effort come back off the post.  Gerrard then saw an effort whistle agonisingly past the post after he was allowed the time space to encroach on goal, to apparent dismay of both captain Robert Koren and coach, Matjaz Kek.

With the half time whistle sounding, England, despite a fortuitous penalty, deservedly lead at the break.

Capello freshened up his side at half-time, replacing Shaun Wright-Phillips with Aaron Lennon, , Lampard with Michael Carrick, Gerrard with Milner, and Emile Heskey with the inform Jermaine Defoe.

The second half started in a similar fashion to the first, with both sides struggling to find an end product to cap their effective build-up play.
On 55 minutes Kek made his first substitution, replacing Milivoje Novakovic with Zlatan Ljubijankic.  Green was called into action shortly after, attacking a free kick with a punch that was far more convincing than Handanovic’s first half effort.

On 62 minutes England doubled their through the on fire Jermaine Defoe.  After receiving the ball on the edge of the box from Tottenham team-mate Lennon, Defoe took one touch before striking cleanly across the goalkeeper and into the bottom left hand corner, increasing his tally to three goals in two substitute appearances.

With twenty minutes remaining Rooney came close once more.  Lennon did well on the right before slicing the Slovenian back line to the feet of Rooney, only for his strike to be blocked on the line by substitute Matej Mavric.

Less than fifteen minutes from time, Slovenia made further alterations to their side, with the introduction of Inter Milan youngster Rene Krhin.  Capello followed soon after, replacing the energetic Rooney with West Ham’s Carlton Cole.

Cole almost made an immediate impact when twice he was unfortunate not to meet a series of tantalising crosses from Milner, who was reigniting the form he showed in the second half against the Dutch.

Slovenia were handed a consolation for the efforts with just five minutes to go.  Substitute Nejc Pecnik teased Glen Johnson before whipping a ball into the box into the path of Zlatan Ljubijankic, with substitute heading brilliantly past Green on 85 minutes.

Moments after conceding, England came close to restoring their two-goal lead.  Carlton Cole powered through the Slovenian defence only for his shot to be deflected away from danger.

Cole then slipped a pass through to the impressive Defoe who darted towards the Slovenian box, only to run out of space before being able to release a strike on goal.

At full-time both Capello and Kek will feel pleased by their sides performances, no doubt hoping that momentum can be taken into their forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Croatia and Poland respectively.

Goal

~ by footballdirecta on September 5, 2009.

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