Euro 2016 qualifying: Danny Welbeck's shin sets England on the way to Swiss win
Danny Welbeck scored twice, the first with his shin, as England began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a lively 2-0 win away to Switzerland, their toughest rivals in the group, on Monday.
Basel: Danny Welbeck scored twice, the first with his shin, as England began their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign with a lively 2-0 win away to Switzerland, their toughest rivals in the group, on Monday.
Raheem Sterling was involved in both goals as England gave a vastly-improved performance on their World Cup outings, where they went out in the group stage, and their lumbering 1-0 friendly win over Norway on Wednesday.
Switzerland, playing their first match under new coach Vladimir Petkovic, showed few flashes of the form which took them to the last 16 in Brazil, a campaign which ended with a heartbreaking last-gasp 1-0 defeat by Argentina.
The Swiss fielded eight members of the team who started that game in Sao Paulo as they suffered their first competitive home defeat for four years, when they lost 3-1 to the same opponents.
Welbeck broke the deadlock when he met Sterling`s low cross in his stride and the ball flew into the net off his shin after Gokhan Inler lost possession in midfield in the 58th minute.
Welbeck then made England`s opening Group E game safe in stoppage time when he produced the finishing touch to a counter-attack, started by Sterling and continued by Rickie Lambert, as the Swiss were pressing for an equaliser.
With the top two reaching the finals from a group which contains Slovenia, Estonia, San Marino and Lithuania, and the third-placed team either qualifying directly or going into a playoff, England already seem to be halfway to France and even the defeated Swiss still have little cause for concern.
"Switzerland don`t lose at home and we had to work hard for it because we missed our chances earlier," Hodgson, who coached the Swiss at the 1994 World Cup, told reporters. "When we can counter-attack against teams, the pace, energy and the youth of the team is shown to good effect.
"We adopted a reasonably bold approach because I know if it`s going to work in the future, if this group of players is going to become any good, we have to do it from the start. Luckily, we got the result which will help us."
Former Lazio coach Petkovic said his Switzerland team paid for two mistakes. "It was a shame to lose the first game," he told reporters. "We were a bit nervous, we made two mistakes as a result of insecurity."
England should have gone ahead in the 29th minute when Welbeck cleverly flicked the ball away from Steve von Bergen and broke down the right, but then undid his good work by failing to pick out Sterling or Rooney with the Swiss defence all at sea.
Rooney forced Yann Sommer to scoop the ball away with a curling shot on the turn and there was nobody to pick up the rebound before the goalkeeper, brought in after Diego Benaglio`s international retirement, made a superb one-handed save to turn away a Phil Jones header from the resulting corner.
Switzerland went close when Jones gave the ball away on the edge of the area to Xherdan Shaqiri, who slipped it to Haris Seferovic and England keeper Joe Hart saved his left-footed effort with his outstretched leg.
Switzerland made a bright start to the second half as Stephan Lichtsteiner sent Ricardo Rodriguez`s low cross over the bar and Hart denied Seferovic, this time from a half volley.
The Swiss, playing in front of a subdued sellout crowd at the St Jakob-Park, were denied an equaliser when Josip Drmic broke through the England defence and rounded Hart only to see his effort cleared off the line by Gary Cahill.
But the hosts were erratic in midfield and failed to make use of the pace of Lichtsteiner and Rodriguez down the flanks as they slumped to a disappointing defeat.