WAYNE ROONEY celebrated becoming the youngest player to win 100 caps for England with a second-half penalty that sparked his side’s revival in a 3-1 win over Slovenia in a Euro 2016 Group E qualifier.
England - 3
Rooney pen 59; Welbeck 65, 72
Slovenia - 1
Henderson og 57
The goal was Rooney’s 44th for his country and drew him level with Jimmy Greaves as England’s joint-third highest all-time scorer.
Only Gary Lineker on 48 goals and Bobby Charlton on 49 stand above him on the all-time list and with age on his side, the 29-year-old should become the first Englishman to score 50 goals for his country.
Charlton, who scored his last England goal in 1970, presented Rooney with a symbolic golden cap before the game, which only came to life in the second half after a turgid opening 45 minutes.
“It was a good day in the end,” Rooney said. “We had to show character and that will be good for us in the team. Since the World Cup we haven’t faced that.”
England looked poor in the first half and not much better until Jordan Henderson put through his own goal to give Slovenia the lead in the 57th minute. That sparked the home side into life.
“It really woke us up and we went and showed what a good side we are. For the penalty I was trying to get a yard and I was clipped, it was a clear penalty,” Rooney said.
Rooney thundered the ball home and although Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic did get a touch on the ball, he was powerless to stop it going in. Danny Welbeck completed the turnaround for Roy Hodgson’s men with a quickfire double.
Rooney, who turned 29 last month, became the ninth player to join England’s 100 club which is headed by Peter Shilton, who won the last of his 125 caps in 1990.
Rooney became the youngest player to represent England at the time of his debut aged 17 years and 111 days against Australia on 12 February, 2003. He then became the youngest player to score for England in a 2-1 win over Macedonia in a Euro 2004 qualifier in Skopje, aged 17 years 317 days.
Although Theo Walcott eclipsed his youngest appearance record in 2006, Rooney’s record as youngest scorer still stands and he now has Charlton’s all-time goals record well within his sights.
England coach Hodgson conceded his side had played some “sterile” football but still felt they were worthy winners. On a Wembley pitch scarred from last weekend’s NFL game between Jacksonville Jaguars and Dallas Cowboys, an insipid England failed to get anywhere near Slovenia’s “end zone” in the first half.
“Games last 90 minutes and you don’t always get exactly what you want from the first minute,” Hodgson said. “I thought in the first half we dominated but it was a little bit sterile at times. We weren’t getting the penetration we were looking for.
“In the second half, especially after Wayne’s quick equalising goal, I thought the game suddenly opened up.”
Hodgson paid tribute to Rooney. “It was a wonderful evening for him,” said Hodgson. “He is very important to English football. I thought it was very fitting that he was able to get his reward on the night when it was all about him.”
England, who have won all four of their Group E fixtures and lead the standings with 12 points, play Scotland in a friendly at Celtic Park on Tuesday and Hodgson will rotate his squad after releasing goalkeeper Joe Hart.
“We have got players that I would like to see and there is potential for me to change things,” he said. “But it’s not going to be a question of sending the bulk of these players home because Scotland is a tough game and we want to go up there with a big team.”