An emotional Wayne Rooney became England’s all-time leading goal-scorer after netting his 50th international goal in a historic 2-0 victory over Switzerland at Wembley in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Tuesday.
With England having already qualified for next year’s tournament, the stage was set for their captain to surpass Bobby Charlton’s 45-year-old mark of 49, which he had equalled in Saturday’s 6-0 win in San Marino.
After substitute Harry Kane broke the deadlock, the moment duly arrived in the 84th minute, Rooney crashing a penalty into Yann Sommer’s top-right corner and being rewarded with a standing ovation that left him wiping away tears.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Rooney, 29. “I’ve been close for the last few games and it’s a dream come true. I was bit emotional. It’s a huge honour and one I am extremely proud of.
“I knew it was a big moment and just picked my corner and put my foot through it. To be the record scorer before the age of 30 is nothing I could have imagined.”
Charlton, whose Manchester United record of 249 goals is also being eroded by Rooney, was quick to offer congratulations.
“I would like to congratulate Wayne on becoming England’s leading goal-scorer,” the 77-year-old, emblem of England’s 1966 World Cup win, said in a statement.
“I obviously cannot deny that I am disappointed that I now don’t hold this record, however, I am absolutely delighted that it is Wayne, as captain of my beloved club and country, who now holds this record.”
England manager Roy Hodgson said: “I’m delighted for Wayne Rooney and his breaking of the record, and showing such courage and ability to blast it into the roof of the net.
“His maturity has impressed me, the way he’s accepted the captaincy. He’s still out there working as hard as the 19-year-old making his way in the game.”
Hodgson revealed that Rooney had been presented with a commemorative shirt by the Football Association and had made a short speech to his team-mates after the game.
He is to be presented with a golden boot by Charlton prior to England’s next game against Estonia at Wembley on October 9.
There were also messages of congratulations from United and Gary Lineker, who had stood second behind Charlton on 48 goals prior to Rooney’s goal against San Marino, which also came from the spot.
England make it 8 wins out of 8 in Euro 2016 Qualifying
The result gave Hodgson’s side an eighth consecutive win, keeping them on course to finish Group E with a perfect record ahead of October’s final two qualifiers against Estonia and Lithuania.
But while England, who lost Fabian Delph to an early injury, can start making plans for France, Switzerland remain under threat from Slovenia in the race for the second and final automatic qualifying spot.
Delph left the fray after pulling up injured inside the first 20 seconds in scenes that recalled his Manchester City debut against Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly, when he had gone off after only 19 minutes.
Ross Barkley was the England substitute who found himself peeling off his tracksuit top sooner than expected.
Every sight of goal for Rooney drew a roar of expectation from the crowd and in the 17th minute he was released by James Milner, only to steer his shot wide.
Three minutes later the roles were reversed. Milner’s low drive obliged Sommer to block.
Hodgson took action mid-way through the second half, introducing Kane for Jonjo Shelvey and shifting from a 4-3-3 system to a 4-2-3-1 that saw Rooney drop back into a number 10 role.
Kane supplied the breakthrough 10 minutes later with an assured left-foot finish from Luke Shaw’s low cross.
After Swiss centre-back Timm Klose had threatened an unlikely solo goal by blundering through a succession of challenges, the sight that the 75,751 fans in the ground had come to see arrived.
Xhaka felled Raheem Sterling, Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi pointed to the spot, and Rooney blasted his way into English football history.
“Wayne Rooney is a legend of world and European football,” said Switzerland coach Vladimir Petkovic.
“I think he’ll just get better. It’s a shame he got it against us, but I’d like to congratulate him with all my heart.”