I was in the pub, but I’m sure ‘God Save the Queen’ must have been being sung out way before Daniel Sturridge won and then scored a penalty that made it 4-1 to England in stoppage time to put the seal on a powerful second half performance that at one point threatened to go horribly wrong, but all is good, first result achieved, now onto Tuesday and an even bigger game against Poland.
A very relieved Roy Hodgson was clearly cock-a-hoop with the result and commented that England had given a performance to make the country proud, not something I wholly agreed with. For me, the words I’d use would be ‘happy and relieved’ we did what we needed to do, 4-1 flattered us a bit in my opinion , though we did deserve to win the game and were the better team, no doubt. I have to say though massive credit to the manager for playing Andros Townsend – more later.
It did surprise me that we had doom and gloom merchants at half time. England were adequate in the first half creating a few chances (one for Rooney hitting the post and Sturridge slicing wide after great movement and control to make space for a shooting opportunity) but you could tell there were big nerves as there were a lot of pot shots, with Montenegro happy to sit back and keep it tight. However with both sides aware Ukraine were top of the table after their win against Poland (I could not believe it did not kick off the same time as Eng v Mon), then both sides knew they needed to win as Ukraine have a gimme game versus San Marino to finish off their qualification campaign. Montenegro had to come out, which helped England as there was more space to cause damage. Rooney got the crucial first and then both sides got fortunate goals, through an own goal and the proverbial sticking out a leg to direct a shot going nowhere into the back of the net, so 2-1, 20+ minutes to go – stress for England fans, hope for Montenegrin fans and Roy was now back to his first half penchant of biting his fingernails!!!!!!!
Now enter Andros, his first England cap and he had already been a menace – direct running, putting defenders on the back foot, at times his final ball was not the best but he gave the Montenegrin defenders something to think about. His run and cross had led to England’s crucial opener and at 2-1 he found some space and unleashed an unstoppable shot (with his so called weaker right foot) in off the post and Wembley and most of the country breathed a hugh sigh of relief that the two goal cushion had been restored. To be fair he had scored crackers like this when on loan to QPR last season, so its was not a complete surprise to some. So a debut in his dreams for Mr Townsend with a man of the match performance that sets England up for this coming Tuesday and as mentioned earlier massive credit to the manager for going bold and I’m sure this will continue against Poland
So, the Poles come Tuesday. After their defeat to Ukraine their chances (even via the playoffs) of qualifying for the World Cup are over. But stopping England from at least automatic qualification will be a massive motivation and with the Dortmund pair of Lewandowski and Blaszczykowski they cannot be taken lightly. Its not the first time England and Poland have squared off at the end of a qualification campaign. In 1973, the Brian Clough anointed clown goalkeeper Jan Tomaszewski was the hero for the visitors as they got a 1-1 draw at Wembley, Gary Lineker was England’s hero in an European Championship qualifier in Poznan with a late equalizer. And in 2005 at Old Trafford (a game I attended) England beat Poland 2-1, though automatic qualification for Germany 2006 was already assured at that stage for both teams which is most definitely not the case for this upcoming clash, with Poland playing with zero pressure – just like Croatia in 2007 – which ended in a 2-3 defeat.
For me England just have to go for it – start with the same attacking team (though change at right back is needed as Kyle Walker is suspended) and leave nothing to chance. For all the euphoria after Friday’s game (for me it was more a cold hearted – job done – one more to go thought) it will mean nothing if we do not WIN come October 15th. I’m going 3-0 – that’s my relaxing early goal for England and comfortable prediction – (hardly ever happens like that mind) but with Lewandowski it would not surprise me if we conceded. I just hope if we do go a goal down – then the support in the stadium needs to continue and the players backed. One more performance needed and Brazil is guaranteed (and the JD2 is complete) – or it could be the playoffs and yet more stress for Roy, the players and the fans.
Let me know your thoughts.