James Lawton: Hodgson's calls vindicated on night of high English drama

It was a goal that could have come from a museum - but what a relic

Theo Walcott, the quick and haunting enigma of English football, arrived as a hero three years ago when he destroyed Croatia as the spectre lurking over the English game.

Last night he chopped down some Swedish pines which were growing extremely tall indeed, with the threat of not only maintaining their unbeaten competitive record against England but also scoring a crushing victory that would have left the regime of Roy Hodgson in early ruins.

That fate would not have been totally undeserved, but if fighting your way out of a corner is the mark of a team with some hope for the future this was a triumph to be valued highly indeed.

Walcott scored a goal and made one, and so for a little while at least he can celebrate once again as a man you can turn to when something dramatic simply has to occur.

The night should not have been so fraught after the one-two delivery from Steven Gerrard and Andy Carroll that landed so devastatingly on Sweden.

It was an opening goal which might have come out of a football museum – but what a relic, what a piece of stupendous timing and power. And also, if he happened to be watching, what a tormenting glimpse of that which might just have been for the former manager of the maker, Gerrard, and the taker, Carroll.

Kenny Dalglish no doubt imagined such a combination inflicting routine devastation when he made the £35m move for Carroll that brought him only a rising tide of mockery and, some believe, a key reason for the axe that fell at the end of the season

There was. too, an additional irony when Gerrard looked up in the 23rd minute and saw his Anfield team-mate advancing on the Swedish goal with some menace. It was the sight of another manager who suffered the ultimate loss of face at Liverpool, Hodgson, leaping in the air when Carroll met the superb, deep cross quite perfectly and gave goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson not the remotest chance.

Hodgson, one game away from the salvation promised by a contrite and impatient Wayne Rooney, had every reason to be euphoric. His decision to play Carroll in partnership with the quick and skilful Danny Welbeck at the expense of the highly promising and combative Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain could have gone spectacularly wrong. When Carroll is bad, he can look very bad indeed, as he reminded us in a guileless opening statement that included the concession of two free-kicks in as many minutes.

But then again, when he is good, he can generate the most undiluted terror. His England team-mate John Terry can vouch for this after being mauled twice at the end of the season but his horrors were no greater than those of the Swedish defence, who could only watch as he headed in with extraordinary venom.

Hodgson was, it has to be said, reacting to a little more than vindication of a single selection. With France claiming the leadership of Group D with victory over Ukraine earlier on a night of ferocious lightning in Donetsk, the need for victory had intensified sharply – and England had looked ragged.

The Carroll goal had redeemed an England performance that had become progressively unconvincing, especially when the Swedish captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Terry moments which might just have provoked the wish that he had been the one left at home. While the Carroll thunderbolt provided a lift, it was hardly a long-term solution.

Nor was Carroll the unconditional hero. His reckless tackle from behind on Kim Kallstrom set up the free-kick from which Olof Mellberg headed in the equaliser off Glen Johnson early in the second half – then the veteran defender scored again from almost identical circumstances, this time James Milner hacking down Martin Olsson.

Seb Larsson's free-kick had been flighted perfectly at the heart of English folly, which was taking on fatal proportions before the remarkable impact of Walcott, the scorer of remarkable goals who just cannot seem to make himself at home in the England shirt. Here, though, he pulled up a chair with perfect timing when, just five minutes after replacing Milner, he saw his deflected shot flash home off Larsson.

His break down the right soon afterwards, though, was the signal of regained confidence in a player who has so often seemed just one stride away from established international status.

It was a break that outstripped the left side of the Swedish defence and when he crossed, Welbeck was restating again his claims to permanent residence in Hodgson's emerging team. His killer touch was both delicate and emphatic and spoke of English life that had seemed to be draining away.

It was in the end restored with victory but there was something fragile about this survival. England are hanging on, which is something to say at the end of a night that threatened to go quite horribly wrong.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Arts and Entertainment
'Deep Breath' is Peter Capaldi's first full-length adventure as the twelfth Doctor
TVFirst episode of new series has ended up on the internet
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?