Wayne Rooney became England’s greatest ever goalscorer, smashing home his 50th for his country as they beat Switzerland at Wembley and confirmed their place as Group E winners.
The captain was handed the chance to beat Sir Bobby Charlton’s 45-year record with an 84th-minute penalty, which he crashed past Yann Sommer with determination, before accepting the congratulations of the crowd and his team-mates.
His historic strike followed hot on the heels of Harry Kane’s opener as Roy Hodgson’s men maintained their 100 per cent run in qualifying and underlined their credentials ahead of next summer.
England 2-0 Switzerland
EURO 2016 Qualifier
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Tuesday 8 September 2015
Having already secured passage to Euro 2016 in San Marino three days earlier with their seventh win from seven qualifiers, England knew at least a draw against second-placed Switzerland would end any possibility of the visitors overtaking the Three Lions in Group E.
Hodgson made four changes to the side which started in Serravalle, but was dealt an early blow inside the first minute when one of those, Fabian Delph, went down clutching his leg and was immediately replaced by Ross Barkley.
While the first half was full of attacking intent from both sides, there was nothing of the necessary quality to get the scoreboard moving.
An unmarked Gary Cahill came close with an early header, which was saved by Sommer, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain connected with a Luke Shaw cross but it went high over the bar.
Highlights: England 2-0 Switzerland
Switzerland, who England beat 2-0 in Basel exactly a year earlier, still had some work to do to take their place at the European Championship and through the lively Xherdan Shaqiri they had a player who looked keen to impress.
The recent Stoke City acquisition had a couple of meaningful tries at Joe Hart’s goal. While one from range went over, an effort inside the box after latching on to a neat through-pass, required the keeper’s urgent attention. Hart won the battle.
Josip Drmic had probably the best sighting when he collected a Shaqiri pass on the right-hand edge of the home team’s box, but pulled his shot well wide.
But with the pre-match talk yet again surrounding Rooney’s attempts to hit the magic half-century for England, Wembley was collectively holding its breath every time he got the ball in a dangerous area.
In a good position on the left of the area, he cut in before drilling wide. Rooney then played Milner into the box, who forced a point-blank save from Sommer.
Early in the second half, the skipper tested Sommer twice himself. The first, a header from a Oxlade-Chamberlain cross, was plucked from the air with ease by the Borussia Monchengladbach stopper. The second one, from 20 yards out, required a bit more thought as Sommer gathered at the second try.
Rooney then moved slightly deeper as Hodgson brought in Kane for Shelvey, and the switch worked wonders. Just 10 minutes after his arrival, the Tottenham Hotspur striker grabbed his third for England to open the scoring.
Sterling and Rooney were involved in the build-up before Shaw drilled across the area to where Kane was waiting to lash low with his left, leaving Sommer stranded.
It was then left to Rooney to end his wait for his record-breaking goal. After Sterling was tripped in the area, the referee point to the spot and the crowd gasped in anticipation.
With cameras poised in every corner of Wembley Stadium Rooney stepped up, steadied himself before firing fiercely just out of reach of Sommer’s dive.
A truly historic moment in English football history and a feat which will take some beating. Rooney rightly received an ovation as the Three Lions headed off the pitch.
Job done all round – for now – but there is still a lot more to come.
England (4-3-3): 1 Joe Hart (Manchester City); 2 Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), 5 Gary Cahill (Chelsea), 6 Chris Smalling (Manchester United), 3 Luke Shaw (Manchester United); 7 James Milner (Liverpool), 4 Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea City), 8 Fabian Delph (Manchester City); 9 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), 10 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United; captain), 11 Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal).
Substitutes: 20 Ross Barkley (Everton) for Delph 3; 18 Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) for Shelvey 57; 15 John Stones (Everton) for Clyne 68.
Subs not used: 12 Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), 13 Jack Butland (Stoke City), 14 Theo Walcott (Arsenal), 16 Phil Jagielka (Everton), 17 Jamie Vardy (Leicester City), 19 Ryan Mason (Tottenham Hotspur), 21 Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Bookings: Milner, Smalling.
Goals: Kane 67, Rooney 84pen.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Switzerland (4-3-3): 1 Yann Sommer (Borussia Monchengladbach); 2 Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), 22 Fabian Schar (Hoffenheim), 4 Timm Klose (VfL Wolfsburg), 13 Ricardo Rodriguez (VfL Wolfsburg); 11 Valon Behrami (Watford), 8 Gokhan Inler (Leicester City; captain), 10 Granit Xhaka (Borussia Monchengladbach); 14 Valentin Stocker (Hertha Berlin), 19 Josip Drmic (Borussia Monchengladbach), 23 Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City).
Substitutes: 7 Breel Embolo (Basel) for Drmic 63; 9 Haris Seferovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) for Stocker 72; 15 Blerim Dzemaili (Genoa) for Behrami 79.
Subs not used: 12 Marwin Hitz (Augsburg), 21 Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund), 3 Francois Moubandje (Toulouse), 5 Steve von Bergen (Young Boys), 6 Silvan Widmer (Udinese), 16 Gelson Fernandes (Rennes), 17 Pajtim Kasami (Olympiacos), 18 Admir Mehmedi (Bayer Leverkusen), 20 Fabian Lustenberger (Hertha Berlin).
Manager: Vladimir Petkovic
Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)
Assistant referees: Elenito Di Liberatore and Gianluca Cariolato (Italy)