Slovenia 0-1 England
Jermain Defoe scored for the Three Lions after converting James Milner’s terrific cross, as Fabio Capello’s men progressed to the knock-out stages of the tournament.
Slovenia were able to name an unchanged side from their 2-2 draw with the USA. Marko Suler recovered from a knock to start alongside Bostjan Cesar at centre-back, while Zlatko Dedic had to settle for a place on the bench as Zlatan Ljubijankic partnered Milivoje Novakovic once again in attack.
Meanwhile, Fabio Capello made three changes from Friday’s dismal draw against Algeria, with Jermain Defoe, James Milner and Matthew Upson coming into the starting line-up in the place Emile Heskey, Aaron Lennon and the suspended Jamie Carragher.
England began the game nervously, being put under pressure from the Slovenians right from the first whistle. Ljubijankic wouldn’t leave Upson alone as he was forced to clear the ball straight to the opposition deep inside his own half, before Johnson was lucky to escape without a booking after bringing Kirm down to the ground with a late challenge.
The first chance of the game went the way of Slovenia through their best player of the World Cup so far, Birsa. The tricky winger cut inside past Upson from the right and was left with too much time to shoot at goal, but fortunately for England, he was unable to recreate his wonderful goal against the USA, as the ball flew into James’ arms.
Rooney’s display in the draw with Algeria - as well as his post-match comments about England fans - drew criticism from the press, and he made his first impact in the match in the 10th minute. He received a great cross-field pass from Johnson on the left wing before curling an inviting cross towards Gerrard at the far post, but Cesar was there to header the ball out of play.
Lampard was given license to get forward by Capello early on and he had two chances to take the lead in a matter on minutes. The Chelsea midfielder tried his luck with a free-kick from 30 yards but the effort was comfortable for Samir Handanovic to deal with before he made a late run into the area to latch onto Rooney’s reverse pass but he failed to get on the end of it.
England continued to get forward and create chances, and had three opportunities to score in quick succession. Rooney won a corner after his powerful strike from just inside the area was pushed wide of the post by Samir Handanovic before Terry headed just wide of the goal from close range. Johnson then had a chance from 25 yards out and opted to shoot instead of passing, but could only fire straight at the goalkeeper.
Following Johnson’s chance, Slovenia quickly raced down the other end of the pitch and could have created a goalscoring opportunity had it not been for Terry. Ljubijankic shaped to shoot after arriving in the penalty area, but was stopped in his tracks by the former Three Lions skipper, who put in an excellent block to divert the ball out for a corner.
Defoe was a surprise selection ahead of the game for England and he gave Fabio Capello’s men the lead. Milner received a pass on the right wing and curled a superb cross into the six-yard box and Defoe managed to steal a yard in front of Suler to stab the ball home from close range.
Just five minutes after providing the assist for Defoe, Milner was at it again - only this time, the Tottenham Hotspur striker couldn’t quite convert the chance. Milner delivered another great cross into the area and Samir Handanovic crept just in front of Defoe to palm the ball away to Lampard, who, from the edge of the area, could only fire over.
Defoe was causing havoc again moments later, spinning past his marker on the edge of the area before forcing another save out of Samir Handanovic. The ball then fell to Gerrard, who played a neat one-two with Rooney, before striking towards the bottom right-hand corner, but the goalkeeper saved his side once again.
Johnson was lucky not to pick up a booking early on in the first half with a late challenge but, this time, he was the victim. The Liverpool full-back raced down the right before being brought to ground by Jokic, who picked up a yellow card, earning him a one-match ban.
Slovenia rarely threatened in the first half but had a chance to equalize with minutes left before the break. Birsa swung a looping left-footed free-kick deep into the area and James managed to punch the ball away ahead of Novakovic, and the Slovenia striker was ruled offside in any case.
Defoe's delight | Jermain opened scoring with his first World Cup goal
Defoe was England’s main attacking threat in the first half and came close to grabbing his second just a minute into the second. Rooney’s quickly-taken corner almost caught Samir Handanovic out at his near post, and he could only palm the ball straight to Lampard on the edge of the area, who drilled the ball into the path of Defoe, but he flicked the ball wide of the post from close range.
While Johnson escaped his booking early on in the game, he didn’t early on in the second half. The full-back raced forward once again and cut inside from the right towards the edge of the area, and as he looked to skip past Jokic, he was caught and fell to ground - only to be booked by referee Wolfgang Stark for diving.
England’s first two displays in Group C failed to produce any free-flowing, exiting football, but Fabio Capello’s men started to shot what they can do. Ashley Cole and Lampard were involved in some neat passing on the left before the latter played a clever pass into the area to Rooney who squared the ball to Defoe to pass the ball into an open goal, but Rooney was correctly ruled offside by the referee.
While Ashley Cole and Lampard worked the ball well down the left, Gerrard and Rooney went one better, but still couldn’t find a second. The pair played a number of one-twos between them on the edge of the area before eventually being closed down by the Slovenia defence, who promptly cleared.
Terry had an opportunity from a corner in the first half and came close to scoring with another header in the second. The Chelsea captain was there at the far post to power a header towards the bottom right-hand corner, but Samir Handanovic pulled off a good save by pushing the ball around the post.
Rooney looked a different player from the display he put in against Algeria on Friday and he would have doubled England’s lead had it not been for the Slovenian goalkeeper once again. Samir Handanovic was on hand to pull off another save by tipping the ball just onto the post after Rooney had scuffed his shot when found one-on-one with him.
Birsa failed to make much of an impact on the game, but had a chance to grab a goal for his side in the 65th minute. The Auxerre winger wasn’t picked up after checking inside from the right and had too much time again to pick his shot, but he could only find the grateful arms of James in the England goal.
England were still the better team, but were almost caught out at the back after Gareth Barry gave the ball away in attack. Kirm clipped a cross into Novakovic from the left wing and it took a courageous block from Terry to clear the ball before Dedic’s follow up struck the ankle of Johnson and cannoned wide of James’ left-hand post.
Rooney looked to be struggling with a slight knock in the second half, so Joe Cole was finally given his chance to play at this summer’s World Cup, and he was a straight replacement for Rooney, playing just behind Defoe in attack.
Slovenia’s Birsa was involved in the game again with ten minutes remaining, but for the wrong reasons this time. The winger flicked the ball up onto the arm of Barry and claimed the Manchester City midfielder had deliberately handled the ball, and when the referee didn’t award a free-kick, he kicked the ball away and picked up a yellow card.
With five minutes remaining, Fabio Capello made his second change, bringing on Heskey for Defoe, and just a minute later, Joe Cole had a chance to make it 2-0. The free agent latched onto a long ball downfield, but could only smash the ball wide of the goal from an awkward angle.
Frustration grew for England in the closing stages as they knew conceding a goal was knock them out of the World Cup, and Upson put in a match-winning block in stoppage time to save the game for Capello’s men and see them through to the last 16.