Defoe gives England win over Slovenia to send them through (Lead)June 23rd, 2010 - 11:28 pm ICT by IANS
Port Elizabeth, June 23 (DPA) Jermain Defoe was hardly expected to be the hero but his first half goal was enough to give England a 1-0 victory over Slovenia Wednesday and a spot in the Round of 16 of World Cup.
Defoe’s last start for England in a competitive match came against Andorra in September 2008. But the Tottenham Hotspur attacker answered the call from coach Fabio Capello and scored England’s only goal in the 23rd minute at Port Elizabeth Stadium to earn Man of the Match honours.
The victory - England’s first in South Africa 2010 - pushed the Three Lions into the knockout stage with five points for second place in Group C. And England avoided elimination in the first round of a World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Capello’s men will next face the second placed team from Group D.
After the United States beat Algeria 1-0, Slovenia finished third in the group with four points, missing a chance to advance to the knockout stages of their second World Cup.
Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek went with the same starting XI that played to a 2-2 draw against the United States.
Capello made three changes from the line-up that was held to a 0-0 draw against Algeria. Matt Upson, James Milner and Defoe were brought in at the expense of Jamie Carragher (suspended), Aaron Lennon and Emile Heskey, respectively.
Both teams started the game nervously, not wanting to make mistakes and risking very little in the attack.
England increased the pressure after the quarter hour but the first superb chance came on Milivoje Novakovic’s attempt at the 21-minute mark for Slovenia.
The line-up changes paid off in the 23rd minute as England jumped ahead. Milner had space on the right side to cross to the edge of the box where a charging Defoe was quicker than Marko Suler to volley past Slovenia keeper Samir Handanovic for his 12th goal in his 42nd game.
Capello’s men were close to doubling the lead four minutes later but Frank Lampard’s blast sailed just over the goal from long range.
The pressure continued and two superb saves by Handanovic at the half-hour mark from Defoe and Steven Gerrard kept Slovenia in the game.
Slovenia were finally close again on a Valter Birsa free kick which deflected off a defender but was secured by England keeper David James.
Defoe was again close just 30 seconds after the re-start but hit just wide right with Handanovic beaten. The Tottenham attacker found the back of the net in the 49th minute but Wayne Rooney had been ruled offside.
It remained one-way traffic towards Handanovic, who made a fine save on John Terry’s header in the 57th and then was lucky a minute later as Wayne Rooney’s attempt hit the left post.
The English backline was spectacular in the 68th minute, throwing themselves in front of attempts by Novakovic and Zlatko Dedic before Birsa’s rebound went wide right.
Slovenia became more and more confident and ventured forward looking for the draw. And Upson booted away a dangerous ball in the area in the 90th minute to seal the win and qualification.
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Tags: aaron lennon, attack england, attacker, coach fabio capello, five points, four minutes, four points, frank lampard, james milner, jamie carragher, jermain defoe, kek, knockout stage, knockout stages, novakovic, port elizabeth, south africa 2010, suler, three lions, tottenham hotspur