FIFA WORLD CUP

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Referee: Wolfgang Stark | Attendance: 36893

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England

  • Jermain Defoe 23'

Slovenia 0-1 England: Defoe seals progress

Fabio Capello's decision to drop Emile Heskey and start Jermain Defoe paid off against Slovenia as the striker volleyed home to seal England's progress with a 1-0 win in Port Elizabeth.

• Capello: No more fear factor

• Jolly: Progress for England

• Photo Gallery "Photo

Landon Donovan's injury-time effort in Pretoria meant the outcome was not exactly what England wanted in Group C, as it means they finish second and leaves them in the same quarter of the draw as Diego Maradona's dangerous Argentinians. But the main thing is they are still there.

With the notable exception of Wayne Rooney, who did not look impressed to be replaced by Joe Cole, and the fact their goals difference read only one, England found themselves again, producing all the verve and fire their manager knows they are so capable of.

Days of rancour gave way to the sheer exhilaration of seeing a team play in the

manner of old and though their profligacy ensured there were some nervy moments

to survive before victory could be achieved, in the end they made it.

The men who combined to give England that crucial, crucial goal were both exorcising a personal ghost.

It has almost been forgotten it is so long ago but right at the beginning of

England's World Cup, Defoe was a starter for Capello.

Hauled off after a goalless 45 minutes against Andorra in Barcelona, Defoe was

condemned to the role of impact substitute for the remainder of the qualifiers,

admittedly scoring three times in the process.

Milner's wound is much fresher. Always a Capello favourite, the Aston Villa man

was asked to plug a hole on the left of England's midfield for the opening

encounter with the United States.

Given a right old chasing by Carlos Bocanegra, the 24-year-old was hauled off

after half an hour and must have wondered if he would see any more action in

South Africa.

Capello is intensely loyal though. Deciding he needed more solidity defensively

than Aaron Lennon can provide, the Italian turned to Milner for the right-sided

role.

His early contribution was riddled with mistakes. But the cross he swung deep

into the Slovenia box midway through that opening period was almost

Beckham-esque.

Defoe had made his way into the danger zone, like any instinctive marksman

would, got just in front of Marko Suler and stuck out his leg, prodding the ball

goalwards with enough power to get it past Samir Handanovic, who did nearly make

a save.

It had taken Defoe 23 minutes to achieve what Heskey had managed once in eight

years; a competitive goal.

Visibly, the pressure lifted from English shoulders. The high-tempo, quick passing, tigerish pressing game Capello had yearned for, and which temperatures of a South African winter suit so well suddenly appeared, and so did the opportunities.

Frank Lampard and skipper Steven Gerrard had the first couple before half-time,

the Liverpool man knowing he would have scored if he had put more power behind a

side-footed effort that failed to beat Handanovic after a hitherto quiet Rooney

had provided the superb square ball.

Capello cut a frustrated figure when, eight yards out and completely unmarked,

Defoe made no contact after Barry had lofted a pass into a Slovenia penalty area

in a state of confusion thanks to some selfless running from Rooney.

John Terry brought a brilliant save out of Handanovic when he rose to meet

Barry's corner at the far post before Rooney struck the base of a post after his

unchecked run into the penalty area had been spotted by Lampard.

It was sumptuous fare lifted directly from the Premier League, the kind of

football that prompted Capello to make his "crazy'' claim that England could

reach the final of this grand and prestigious tournament in Soccer City on July

11.

In a week for apologies and forgiveness, the England supporters responded by

showing they bore no hard feelings for Rooney's rant in Cape Town by chanting

his name with gusto, although on the second occasion it was for their talisman's

exit - unhappily - to make way for Joe Cole to make his long-awaited bow.

Amid the euphoria at finding a team, one fairly large problem was being

overlooked. England's lead remained stuck at one and could so easily be snatched

away.

Had first Terry, then Glen Johnson, not thrown themselves in front of Slovenian

shots, the smallest country in the tournament would have had their equaliser and

England would have been out.

For Slovenia, events elsewhere would give them cause for huge regret. For

England, pride was restored - and a sigh of relief could be breathed.

Scoring Summary

  • Slovenia
  • England
 

Match Stats

  • Slovenia
  • England
13(6) Shots (on goal) 13(8)
19 Fouls 20
2 Corner kicks 11
1 Offsides 1
45% Time of Possession 55%
3 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
6 Saves 6

Teams

  • Slovenia
  • England
Substitutes
Substitutions
Yellow Cards
Glen Johnson (48')