European Qualifiers: Danny Welbeck double sees England to winning start in Switzerland
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92
Last Updated: 09/09/14 8:49am
England took their first step towards the 2016 European Championships in France with a morale-boosting 2-0 victory over Switzerland in Basel on Monday.
Danny Welbeck struck at either end of the second-half as England made a successful start to their Group E campaign.
Captain Wayne Rooney was the catalyst in an excellent counter-attacking move which ended in Raheem Sterling sliding a precision ball towards the back post, where the on-rushing Welbeck made no mistake as he fired beyond Yann Sommer to break the deadlock on 59 minutes.
Another free-flowing counter attack, this time started by Sterling, led to England's second in stoppage time. Liverpool striker Rickie Lambert held play up well before releasing Welbeck, who displayed excellent composure before slotting beyond a helpless Sommer in the Switzerland goal.
Hodgson turned the air blue following criticism of his team after a 1-0 win against Norway at Wembley last Wednesday, but tonight he will have nothing but kind words to say about his team after they put in a much-improved display.
The attacking triumvirate of Welbeck, Sterling and Rooney created many chances, but their finishing let them down until Welbeck poked home his first England goal since September 6, 2013.
Fabian Delph, making his full debut, also put in a strong display in the middle of the park, completing all 26 of his first-half passes.
The defensive vulnerabilities that cost England in Brazil were still evident - Phil Jones almost gifted the Swiss the lead in the first half.
But Hodgson will return to England with a broad smile on his face after beating his biggest rivals, and former employers, in Group E.
Delph's enthusiasm descended into recklessness in early stages as the former Leeds man picked up a yellow card for two rash challenges.
Jack Wilshere chipped a delightful 30-yard ball to Rooney, but the captain's control was desperately poor and the attack faded out.
An error by Steve von Bergen allowed Sterling to race at the defence but Rooney's shot dribbled straight into the arms of Yann Sommer.
With Xherdan Shaqiri in their side, Switzerland always looked capable of hitting England on the break though.
Haris Seferovic latched on to a clever pass from the Bayern Munich midfielder, but the referee waved play on when the striker went down under pressure from Jones.
Jones carelessly gave the ball away and Shaqiri took advantage, carving a lovely pass through to Seferovic again, but this time Joe Hart saved with his right leg.
England had a brilliant chance of their own just before the half-hour when Welbeck broke down the right. England were three on one, but the Arsenal striker's pass to Sterling was poor and Switzerland rushed back to snuff out the danger.
Sommer tipped Rooney's shot behind and from the resulting corner the Switzerland goalkeeper denied Jones with a superb one-handed save.
England were soon under pressure following the restart and Hart did well to deny Seferovic, who had smacked a sweet volley towards the top corner.
Switzerland's pressing left them open at the back and England took full advantage just before the hour.
Rooney galloped forward from the halfway line and slipped the ball straight into Sterling's path.
The Liverpool winger, compared to Marc Overmars by Rooney on the eve of the match, cantered down the left just like the flying Dutchman and bypassed three defenders with a flat ball across the box to Welbeck, who shinned the ball into the net at the far post.
Moments after his introduction, Josip Drmic broke through the England back line and he was allowed to advance on goal despite being offside. The striker rounded Hart, but Cahill came to England's rescue with a block on the line. It was a superb block, but one that involved his hand, much to Switzerland's annoyance
Then in the fourth minute of injury time Sterling found substitute Lambert on the break. The Liverpool striker played the ball on to Welbeck and he slotted the ball past Sommer to seal the victory for England and their hordes of jubilant fans.