Switzerland 0-2 England: Welbeck brace downs Swiss
Danny Welbeck scored his first international goals for more than a year as Roy Hodgson’s England began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a morale-boosting win in Switzerland.
Scorers: England - Welbeck (59, 90)
Referee: C Çakir (Turkey)
England manager Hodgson, who came in for criticism following last week’s uninspiring win over Norway, handed Welbeck the central striker’s role he craves and he responded by scoring both goals in this impressive 2-0 victory in Basel.
The 23-year-old showed why Arsenal paid £16 million for his signature as he turned home a Raheem Sterling cross on a lightning counter-attack that also involved captain Wayne Rooney.
The Liverpool winger, compared to Marc Overmars by Rooney on the eve of the match, cantered down the left just like the flying Dutchman and bypassed three defenders with a flat ball across the box to Welbeck, who shinned the ball into the net at the far post.
Ricardo Rodriguez’s deflected shot sent a few pulses in the away end racing towards the death, but Joe Hart saved and former Manchester United man Welbeck rounded off the win in injury time with a well-taken finish to send a large England support into raptures.
Hodgson turned the air blue following criticism of his team at Wembley last Wednesday, but last night he had nothing but kind words to say about his team after they put in a much-improved display.
Without 15 injured seniors, Hodgson’s young starting XI had just 282 caps among them whereas Switzerland’s team had played 481 times in total for their country.
That, and the fact that Switzerland were ranked 11 places above England, made the hosts the pre-match favourites but Hodgson’s men were the best team going forward by some distance and only the goalkeeping of Yann Sommer coupled with some wasteful finishing prevented them easing into a reassuring first-half lead.
The attacking triumvirate of Welbeck, Sterling and Rooney created many chances, but their finishing let them down until Welbeck poked home his first England goal since 6 September, 2013.
Fabian Delph, making his full debut, also put in a strong display in the middle of the park.
The defensive vulnerabilities that cost England in Brazil were still evident – Phil Jones almost gifted the Swiss the lead in the first half.
But Hodgson will return to England with a broad smile on his face after beating his biggest rivals in Group E.
He told ITV Sport: “I thought the way we approached the game from the first minute was exactly what we wanted and we got our reward. We pressurised the ball well, but you need that first goal to get people to come out and attack you.
“From then I thought we looked dangerous and we had several chances to aggravate the scoreline before Danny Welbeck’s second.
“I think we can improve on how we see out the game, but you have to expect that some players will show a little naivety in that area.”
Captain Rooney added: ““We defended well as a team and took our chances, catching them on the break with the speed we had been hoping to show.
“I think we knew the game against Norway last Wednesday was going to be difficult, but tonight was always going to be more important and we were focusing on that.
“We have worked on springing from defence to attack which is what you saw tonight. It was a happy performance from us.”