England prevailed over Slovenia to set up a mouth-watering knock-out clash against the Germans, with Defoe scoring the only goal of the match. The Three Lions finally woke up from their slumber and rose to the occasion to ensure qualification.
Fabio Capello made three changes to the team that was booed off the pitch by their fans in the game against Algeria. Matthew Upson replaced suspended Jamie Carragher, Jermaine Defoe started alongside Rooney in attack, while Milner replaced Lennon on the right flank. David James continued to be in goal. Slovenia had an unchanged team from their match against USA.
Slovenia created the first chance of the game as Valter Birsa moved the ball from the right on to his favoured left-foot, but his shot from just outside the area was collected safely by David James.
England had their first chance of the game on the quarter hour mark through a free-kick from Lampard after Rooney was fouled by Radosavlijevic, but the shot from forty yards out was well saved by Handanovic.
Terry had the next best chance for the Three Lions through a corner from Barry, but he only managed to guide his header past the post. The Chelsea captain was on top of his game on the other end of the pitch though, as his last ditch challenge on Koren inside the area avoided, what could have been, real trouble for England.
It was England who broke the deadlock after twenty-two minutes thanks to the pair of Defoe and Milner, who were both brought into the team for this game. Milner created space for himself and delivered a superb cross which was met by Defoe on the volley. His shot from six yards out was too hot to handle for the Slovenian keeper as he could nothing but pick the ball out of the back of the net.
Milner continued to cause problems for Slovenia as his cross was parried by Handanovic straight onto the path of Lampard, but the Chelsea man blazed his shot over the bar. England should have doubled their lead with half-an-hour gone as Gerrard put Defoe through, who shot straight at the keeper. The rebound fell on to the legs of Rooney who laid it back to Gerrard, but the Captain’s weak shot was saved by Handanovic.
Half-time arrived with no further chances for either team. England were clearly the better of the two sides and with the scores level at half time in the game between USA and Algeria, England and Slovenia were the teams to go through from the group if scores remained the same.
Second half started with a glorious chance for Defoe to double his tally. Handanovic punched a corner from Rooney which was headed back in the area by Gerrard to put Defoe through, but the diminutive striker managed to put his flick past the charging goalkeeper but also past the post.
Defoe did manage to put the ball in the net couple of minutes later but was ruled out for offside on Wayne Rooney who had laid the ball on to the path of Defoe.
Birsa then had two back to back opportunities through free-kicks but both times his efforts were easily collected by the ever so sure David James. Terry had another chance to put the game to bed following a corner from Barry, but this time his shot was well saved by Handanovic.
Rooney then had the best chance of the half to end his eleven hour goal drought for England. Lampard played a brilliant ball over the top to put Rooney through, but his shot was brilliantly parried away on to the post by the keeper.
England were given a warning midway through the second half, as Slovenia had a glorious opportunity to equalize. Their first couple of shots was valiantly blocked, first by Terry and then by Johnson, before Birsa smashed his shot wide of the post.
The game went on with neither team able to create any serious chances till the injury time when Dedic was through with only James to beat, but Matthew Upson’s wonderful tackle came to England’s rescue. England played out the remaining minutes to secure their place in the knock-out round, but just as this game finished, Landon Donovan scored for USA to put them through and knocked Slovenia out of the competition.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER OF THE MATCH
Samir Handanovic (Slovenia)
The Slovenian keeper was absolutely brilliant between the posts. Apart from being beaten by Defoe from point blank range, Handanovic denied England on numerous occasions giving his team a chance to come back into the game.
TheHardTackle’s REFEREE REPORT CARD
Name: Wolfgang Stark (Germany)
Although the referee did not show unnecessary cards, he did held them back even when they were warranted. Barry should have been booked early in the game for a reckless challenge, which could have impacted the outcome of the match. There were also one or two bizarre decisions such as Johnson being booked for diving and a couple of corners which should have been given as goal-kicks.
SLOVENIA 0-1 ENGLAND
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa
England Line-Up: David James, Glenn Johnson, Matthew Upson, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Jermaine Defoe (Emile Heskey 86’), Wayne Rooney (Joe Cole 72’)
Manager: Fabio Capello
Slovenia Line-Up: Samir Handanovic, Bostjan Cesar, Marko Suler, Bojan Jokic, Miso Brecko, Aleksander Radosavljevic, Robert Koren, Andraz Kirm (Tim Matavz 79’), Valter Birsa, Milivoje Novakovic, Zlatan Ljubijankic (Zlatko Dedic 62’)
Manager: Matjaz Kek
Caution: Jokic, Birsa, Dedic