Scandal-hit Wayne Rooney scored as England seized control of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a comfortable 3-1 victory over 10-man Switzerland here Tuesday.
Rooney, whose preparation for the match had been engulfed by lurid tabloid allegations about his private life, found the net after 10 minutes to help put Fabio Capello’s men on top of Group G with two wins out of two.
Substitutes Adam Johnson and Darren Bent also scored for the visitors in what will be regarded as a hugely encouraging result for England following such a miserable World Cup, in which they lost 4-1 to Germany in the last 16.
The result was marred by injuries to Theo Walcott and Jermain Defoe, both carried off on a stretcher, but it leaves England on six points from two games, and gives Rooney accused of cheating on his wife with a prostitute, with some kind of personal satisfaction at the end of a hugely trying week.
The result left Capello delighted.
“I think we played fantastic football in the first half,” Capello said.
Asked how he rated Rooney’s performance, Capello replied: “You saw the game, no? I think he played well. He was at the centre of the play, the centre of the movement. I think the pressure was strong for him but he played well.”
England captain Steven Gerrard praised a “spot on” performance which had seen the Swiss “torn apart.”
“I think the first-half performance was perfect,” Gerrard told Sky Sports. “Everything the manager asked of us, we got the gameplan spot on.
“I think we got a little bit lazy in the second half, they came into the game, but it was never in doubt,” he said. “People were talking about how good Switzerland are defensively, but we just tore them apart.”
As for Switzerland, they scored possibly the goal of the game through substitute Xherdan Shaqiri despite having Stephan Lichtsteiner controversially sent off after 65 minutes and left the field frustrated with the refereeing of official Nicola Rizzoli.
But it will be Rooney who earns the headlines, as he has been used to doing so many times during his fledgling career.
After the seemingly endless revelations about his private life, those who know Rooney best insisted he was a certainty to score and play well in Basel – and they were proved right.
The Manchester United striker, playing in a deep role behind Defoe, took only 10 minutes to get on the scoresheet as he side-footed home from six yards following excellent work down the right wing by full-back Glen Johnson.
It was Rooney’s first goal in open play since March and, remarkably given his reputation and talent, his first for England since September 2009; a barren period which of course included a dismal World Cup campaign.
Rooney’s celebrations were under-stated but England’s fans, who cheered his every touch despite booing him at Wembley recently, roared their delight.
England suffered a set-back when Arsenal winger Walcott, who had started the move for Rooney’s goal, was injured in the process and subsequently rushed to hospital for X-Rays on an ankle injury.
But his replacement Adam Johnson of Manchester City continued his good work down the right flank and if anything improved on it.
Defoe wasted one excellent chance from a James Milner cross to put England further ahead and also forced Swiss goalkeeper Diego Benaglio into a fine save as the visitors enjoyed the more constructive possession early on.
Switzerland’s task was made harder in the second half when Lichtsteiner was sent off for his second yellow card, a late challenge on Milner when the ball was already going out for a corner in the 65th minute.
England made it 2-0 when, with Defoe lying injured, play continued and winger Johnson raced onto a perfect through-ball from Gerrard to expertly round keeper Benaglio.
A stunning goal from Shaqiri, curling home from 25 yards seconds later, made it a frantic finale but England, and Rooney, ended the night with a sense of satisfaction – especially when Bent, a replacement for the injured Defoe, side-footed home a third two minutes from time.
Euro 2012 qualifying results – collated
Germany 6 Azerbaijan 1
Turkey 3 Belgium 2
Austria 2 Kazakhstan 0
Ireland 3 Andorra 1
Russia 0 Slovakia 1
Macedonia 2 Armenia 1
Italy 5 Faroes Island 0
Serbia 1 Slovenia 1
Bosnia-Herzegovina 0 France 2
Belarus 0 Romania 0
Albania 1 Luxembourg 0
Sweden 6 San Marino 0
Hungary 2 Moldova 1
Netherlands 2 Finland 1
Georgia 0 Israel 0
Malta 0 Latvia 2
Croatia 0 Greece 0
Bulgaria 0 Montenegro 1
Switzerland 1 England 3
Denmark 1 Iceland 0
Norway 1 Portugal 0
Scotland 2 Liechtenstein 1
Czech Republic 0 Lithuania 1
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