Tallinn: Wayne Rooney spared Roy Hodgson’s blushes as the England captain’s fine free-kick secured a 1-0 win against 10-man Estonia in a hard-fought Euro qualifier in Tallinn on Sunday.

Hodgson had taken a significant gamble by leaving out Raheem Sterling after he complained of feeling tired in training and England looked impotent without the teenage Liverpool midfielder for long periods at the Le Coq Arena.

England striker Wayne Rooney scores off a free kick against Estonia during their Euro qualifier in Tallinn, Estonia on Sunday. pic/AFP 

Even after Estonia captain Ragnar Klavan was dismissed for a second booking early in the second half, Hodgson’s side still laboured to see off the Baltic minnows. But they finally made the breakthrough thanks to Manchester United striker Rooney, who curled home a free-kick with 17 minutes remaining to maintain England’s 100 percent record after three Group E matches.

Rooney’s moment of inspiration took him to 43 international goals — within one of Jimmy Greaves and only six behind record holder Bobby Charlton’s tally of 49.

“It was hard work. We played well in the first half without taking our chances and that meant there was an air of frustration setting in,” Hodgson told ITV.

‘Good free-kick’
“Everyone knew when you’ve played well, you have to take a chance. Luckily we did that in the second half. It was a good free-kick from Wayne and it’s four wins in a row, which is not to be sniffed at.”

After winning their opening two qualifiers at a canter, Hodgson and his players had boldly declared their desire to win all 10 group matches. The Englishmen are firmly remain on course to fulfil that ambition.