Roy Hodgson has dismissed claims that he was about to haul off England captain Wayne Rooney seconds before he scored the match-winning goal in the lacklustre 1-0 victory over Estonia in Tallinn on Sunday night.
Rooney’s performance summed up that of the whole team as England struggled to find a breakthrough against the 10-men of Estonia, and it looked as though Rickie Lambert was preparing to replace the Manchester United striker in the 73rd minute.
However, Raheem Sterling won a free-kick after coming off the bench himself, and Rooney stepped up to curl the ball into the back of the net to maintain England’s 100 per cent start to the season.
It’s claimed that Rooney’s number 10 appeared on the fourth official’s substitution board moments before the goal, which then saw Lambert return to the bench with a smile on his face.
Estonia 0 England 1 player ratings
Estonia 0 England 1 player ratings
1/12 Joe Hart
Another quiet night for England’s No 1. A spectator for the most part in Tallinn, though his distribution was wayward at times when required. 6/10
2/12 Calum Chambers
Often sloppy on the ball but matches like this will stand him in good stead for the future, especially when being played out of position. 5
3/12 Gary Cahill
Fast becoming Mr Dependable in England’s backline. Always in the best position, and gave Estonia’s forwards no chance during rare attacks. 8
4/12 Phil Jagielka
A slightly subdued performance but made up for that with a couple of well-timed challenges. Not over-worked but solid alongside Cahill. 5
5/12 Leighton Baines
Plenty of time and space to attack, with his passing as slick as his hairstyle. Rooney should have put away left-back’s cross in the first half. 7
6/12 Jack Wilshere
Despite his starting position as the deep-lying midfielder, he constantly looked to set England on the attack. A couple of delightful through-balls. 9
7/12 Jordan Henderson
Steady from the Liverpool midfielder, with some great movement but the 24-year-old lacked incision with his final ball. Can do better. 6
8/12 Fabian Delph
Often found himself reverting to left-back as cover for the adventurous Baines who was always looking to get forward. Replaced after 61 minutes. 5
9/12 Adam Lallana
The attacking tip of Hodgson’s diamond. Linked up well with Rooney, Henderson and Wilshere and made promising runs into dangerous areas. 6
10/12 Wayne Rooney
His celebration was one of pure relief after his missed chances began stacking up. Stepped up with fine free-kick when it mattered. 7
11/12 Danny Welbeck
Sluggish. The Arsenal man just could not get going at all in Tallinn. Heavy in the touch. Had to drop back to get any involvement in the game. 4
12/12 Best of the bench: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
His pace posed some problems as the clock wound down, and he came close to setting up Rooney for a late second which the captain couldn’t finish. 6
Yet when quizzed by journalists after the match, Hodgson denied that Rooney was the man who would be replaced, but he did concede that the coaching staff had yet to make a decision on who Lambert would replace.
“We wanted to get Rickie on because he’s a goalscorer and we hadn’t been taking our goal chances so when you have someone like Rickie, who you know has a goal in him, we wanted him on the field,” said Hodgson.
“So it was really was a question of which one we take off, as they had both missed their chances. Neither of the strikers [Rooney and Danny Welbeck] could have been too critical of me if I had chosen him.
“We were umming and aahing about which of the two front players to take off and when Danny turned his ankle, there was of course no question.”
However, broadcasters ITV claimed that their touchline reporters had witnessed a card being handed to the fourth official with Rooney’s name on it, but Hodgson explained that he had not made a decision on who to bring off and that any paperwork with Rooney’s name on was unbeknown to him.
“We were still considering it, as far as I know,” said Hodgson.
“To be fair, as I was in discussion, I don't know about forms going in so no doubt you're going to produce some evidence but certainly it wasn't my intention.”
Had Rooney been substituted, few would’ve blamed Hodgson as he missed a number of chances to add to his international goal tally. The 27-year-old could easily have had a hat-trick, which would have taken him beyond Jimmy Greaves’ career record of 44 goals and into third place on the all-time Three Lions goalscorers list.
Rooney appeared surprised when the notion of him being substituted was put to him, but he stressed that he can produce a goal at any moment and feels he repaid Hodgson’s faith in keeping him on.
“That's football,” said Rooney. “I think I've shown over the years I'm always capable of scoring goals.
“We knew before the game, having obviously faced teams like this before, that they're tough games.
“It's difficult to break them down, and tonight it was. Thankfully, we got the goal and saw them out. It was a tough game and a good win. It was close but I was just focussing on trying to get it up and over the wall as quick as I could.”Reuse content