London: Wayne Rooney marked his 100th cap with a valuable goal as England hit back to beat Slovenia 3-1 on Saturday and preserve their perfect start in Euro 2016 qualifying.
After a dire first half at a subdued Wembley Stadium, Slovenia took a surprise 57th-minute lead when England's Jordan Henderson headed the ball into his own net. But Rooney equalised almost immediately, scoring his 44th England goal from the penalty spot to move level with third-place Jimmy Greaves in the all-time scoring chart, before Danny Welbeck's brace secured victory.
Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck (r) celebrate a goal. Pic/ AFP
The win strengthened England's position atop Group E ahead of the resumption of qualifying matches in March and means that Roy Hodgson's side will travel to Glasgow for Tuesday's friendly against Scotland with their post-World Cup momentum intact.
Rooney was accompanied by his young sons Kai and Klay as he led the teams onto the pitch and he was then presented with a commemorative golden cap by England and Manchester United great Bobby Charlton. Southampton's Nathaniel Clyne made his England debut at right-back and he helped create an early chance for Raheem Sterling with a burst down the flank, only for the teenager to drag wide.
England monopolised possession, but their lack of invention made for a torpid first half on a pitch that bore the scars from last weekend's NFL match between the Dallas Cowboys and the Jackonsville Jaguars. Having won their previous two group games without conceding a goal, Slovenia were content to sit deep and counter-attack, but they almost went ahead when Milivoje Novakovic headed narrowly wide at a corner.
- Rooney closes on Charlton -
England forced Slovenia back at the start of the second half, Rooney heading wide and then teeing up Phil Jagielka to work Samir Handanovic with a header, but it was the visitors who made the breakthrough. Andraz Kirm whipped a free-kick into the England box from wide on the left and Henderson rose higher than everyone at the near post, only to head the ball past Joe Hart for an own goal.
Slovenia were threatening to spoil Rooney's big day, but the 29-year-old elected to take matters into his own hands. Visiting captain Bostjan Cesar was celebrating his own milestone -- a record-breaking 81st cap -- but barely a minute after Henderson's goal, he clipped Rooney's heels as the England captain surged into the box.
Rooney blasted the ensuing penalty inside Handanovic's right-hand post, equalling Greaves's tally of 44 England goals and closing to within five goals of Charlton's overall record of 49. Gary Cahill then had to block from Kevin Kampl after Jagielka tied himself into a knot in a dangerous position, but in the 66th minute England completed their comeback.
When Adam Lallana's deflected cross was blocked at the near post by Handanovic, the ball squirted up into the air and Welbeck threw himself in to send it trundling into the net. Six minutes later, the Arsenal striker claimed his second goal, neatly exchanging passes with Sterling before steering the ball past Handanovic.