Switzerland 1-3 England: Rooney Shrugs Aside Off-Field Issues As Adam Johnson And Darren Bent Kill Off 10-Man Hosts
Swiss roll over as Rooney and Bent end dry streaks
By Nick Price
Rooney opened the scoring with a simple tap-in after an excellent team move, with Adam Johnson doubling the lead before a howitzer from Xherdan Shaqiri saw a late rally from the home side who had Stephan Lichsteiner sent off, only for Bent to pop up with his first international goal to tie up a vital away victory.
The result sees Fabio Capello's side top Group G, but the success will be marred by potentially serious injuries to Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe.
Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott replaced the injured Michael Dawson to partner former Everton team-mate Phil Jagielka in an otherwise unchanged England line-up from the team that beat Bulgaria 4-0 at Wembley, as Rooney, amidst a media furore over alleged off-the-field indiscretions, started alongside Friday night's hat-trick hero Defoe.
Ottmar Hitzfeld's Swiss side came into their first game of Group G off the back of a disappointing scoreless draw with Australia on Friday and were without winger Tranquillo Barnetta, but were able to call upon goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, who kept Spain at bay in the World Cup's biggest surprise result and had been rumoured to have been allowed paternity leave.
Arsenal forward Theo Walcott, controversially left out of Fabio Capello's 23-man World Cup squad, showed early signs of his promising Premier League form and saw plenty of the ball in the opening stages, twice twisting and bursting beyond former Tottenham man Reto Ziegler.
The 21-year-old would be instrumental to the ninth minute goal after linking up with Glen Johnson down the right, with the Liverpool full-back reaching the byline before slipping the ball across the face of goal to Rooney, who had a simple finish after Defoe's dummy fooled the Swiss defence.
It was the Manchester United striker's first international goal since netting in the 5-1 victory over Croatia 12 months ago, but celebrations were muted as it became apparent that Walcott was in serious pain after seeing his ankle clipped as he ran into the box. Adam Johnson, who scored his first goal at international level on Friday, replaced the Arsenal man who had to be stretchered off the pitch in obvious distress.
Defoe, scorer of three superb strikes against Bulgaria, should have done better after captain Steven Gerrard fired in a cross from deep, but the Tottenham striker failed to get a first touch on the ball under little pressure.
The impish striker would get onto a cross minutes later as Adam Johnson turned his marker down the right and rolled in a pass across goal, but Defoe didn't quite anticipate the reverse ball and fell backwards as he looped his shot wide.
After 20 minutes it was the away side who looked much the more composed, with Hitzfeld's charges struggling to link up, although Glen Johnson nearly gifted a chance for Eren Derdiyok after making a mess of a rudimentary clearance, but the forward's effort from range was blocked by Jagielka.
England's swagger was evidenced by a terrific team move involving Gerrard, the Johnsons and a free roaming James Milner, which found Rooney in space in the left channel, and the 24-year-old slipped in a marauding Ashley Cole down the left, but the Chelsea man whipped cross fell just behind Defoe, who was nearly picked out in a similar position from a Milner ball that fizzed across goal moments later.
At the other end, Derdiyok nodded down a lofted ball into the path of Alexander Frei, but the ball was shepherded away from danger by Jagielka and Lescott, whilst Joe Hart showed what has now become his trademark cool-headedness by calmly touching a pass-back before launching the ball away as a red shirt launched towards him.
Adam Johnson, who had continued in the vein of Walcott down the right, soon saw a thunderous left-footed strike bend and dip narrowly over Benaglio's crossbar after cutting inside.
Switzerland, who have scored on just four occasions in their previous 10 outings, saw their best chance of the first half fall to David Degen after a drilled set-piece cross from Frei fell to the Young Boys winger at the far post, but the man who impressed in recent Champions League games against Tottenham could only lash wide.
That chance precipitated the first real sustained period of pressure exerted by the home side, with England suddenly looking vulnerable as Pirmin Schwegler picked out Frei from within his own half, but Switzerland's record goalscorer couldn't break free of Lescott and Jagielka.
That moment of danger shook the Three Lions out of their complacency and Defoe almost doubled the advantage after deftly controlling a high ball, turning away from goal and then cutting back inside the box to deliver a stinging strike that forced a brave save from Benaglio.
The Wolfsburg keeper then did well to deny Rooney a second of the game after the bulldog-like striker was forced away from goal after he had been slipped in by the ever tricky Adam Johnson, and the Manchester United striker's clipped cross was well cleared as Defoe loitered to capitalise on any mistake.
It was the final act of a first half that saw a measured display from Capello's side, who passed the ball in the pouring rain with aplomb, creating several decent chances in the process that ought to have seen the margin widened before the teams headed to the tunnel.
Switzerland, having stymied Spain in South Africa and with a reputation for resolute defending, scarcely looked capable of mustering a goalscoring opportunity and frequently looked porous at the back.
Hitzfeld brought on teen prodigy Xherdan Shaqiri for the quiet Xavier Margairaz for the restart, but England returned unchanged in terms of personnel and in a similar style as Rooney picked out Adam Johnson with a weighted cross that the Sunderland-born winger met with an acrobatic volley that went well wide.
Goekhan Inler hit a hopeful, if wild, sighter after the Swiss pulled off a rare passing move, with the Kosovo-born Shaqiri showing his talent with a clever turn and pass that had the home fans cheering for the first time in a long time.
Right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner, having fared much better against Milner than his opposite full-back had against Walcott and Adam Johnson, showed his attacking thrust after linking up with Degen in two stints that had Cole, who had spent most of the first half camped on the halfway line, concerned.
Lichtsteiner's England counterpart Glen Johnson then had Benaglio sprawling with a wickedly struck shot on his wrong foot that was tipped wide for a corner, from which Milner would earn a booking that will rule him out of the next qualifier.
More worries would be poured on the away side after Hart, who had hitherto looked assured, twice spilled comfortable catches in the rain and was very lucky not to be punished first by Degen and then by Frei before Gerrard cleared the lines after the ball had long bounced in the box.
Just after the hour mark, and just after Switzerland's brightest period of the game, Lichtsteiner saw a second yellow after catching Milner late by the byline, and England could have done better from their captain's near post cross.
The sending off turned the atmosphere in the stands and on the pitch, as a series of rash challenges in the rain resulted in Defoe being felled in the centre circle, but his team-mates carried on playing with Rooney and Gerrard combining to slip through Adam Johnson, who rounded Benaglio at the edge of the box and turned into the empty net for his second goal in as many games.
Again celebrations were short-lived and soured as an England man, this time Defoe, had to be carried off and replaced by Sunderland striker Darren Bent.
Any thoughts that the game was done and dusted with a two-goal lead and a man advantage were soon banished as the home side pulled one back courtesy of a wonder strike from Shaqiri, whose launched effort from distance smashed into the far corner of Hart's net.
The strike certainly came from the blue, and the Swiss refused to roll as the fans re-found their voice with Cole earning a yellow for a challenge on Shaqiri that hinted at further signs of trouble.
Perhaps anticipating more danger, Capello called off Rooney, who had an industrious evening, for Shaun Wright-Phillips, shifting the shape of the side from a fairly orthodox 4-4-2 to a 4-4-1-1 with Milner slotting in behind Bent and his two Manchester City wing rivals slotting down either flank.
England survived an 86th minute penalty scare and should have reinstalled their two goal lead as Gerrard picked out Wright-Phillips who beat the offside trap and raced through into the box with Bent in support, but the little winger's pass to his team-mate was far too casual and was intercepted when the Sunderland man would have had an empty net to tap into.
But Bent would finally break his international duck with a powerful left-footed drive, his first chance since replacing Defoe, after being put through on goal by Cole.
England saw out the remaining minutes as Switzerland eventually succumbed to defeat, and the 3-1 victory did not flatter the visitors who looked a class apart from the hosts for long periods.
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