England finished the season with an unexpectedly exciting 3-2 win away in Slovenia to ensure they remained unbeaten throughout the 2014/15 domestic season.
Wayne Rooney scored his 48th England goal to win the game in Ljubljana, but it was Jack Wilshere’s sensational double that stole the headlines.
The Arsenal man showed great technique to bring England back into the contest after Milivoje Novakovic put the hosts in front just before the half time interval. Nejc Petnik responded after Wilshere’s brace to make it 2-2 but Rooney fired England ahead once again as the Three Lions maintained their perfect record in Group E.
Joe Hart – 6
Little he could do about the two goals he conceded, incidentally the first scored by an opposing player in the qualification stages. Had little other action of note to deal with, instead left to watch in awe at some of the defensive decisions made in front of him.
Phil Jones – 2
As poor as Jones was during his 45 minutes of action, some of the blame should rest on Roy Hodgson for selecting him at right-back. Nathaniel Clyne has done little wrong to merit being left on the bench, though his stock will surely have risen considering Jones’ performance. The ankle injury that forced him off was cheered across the country.
Gary Cahill – 5
Got himself in a mess for the opening goal and looked shaky next to Chris Smalling at the back. Unlike such an experienced head that played a pivotal part in the Premier League winners’ defence this season.
Chris Smalling – 6
An impressive season at Manchester United has forced Smalling into the England starting XI for an important qualifier, though the lack of playing time alongside Cahill was evident. A far better footballer than when he made his international debut, hopefully he and Cahill can flourish from this testing time.
Kieran Gibbs – 5
Had little impact on the match until he was beaten in the air for Slovenia’s equaliser. With Leighton Baines injured and Luke Shaw out of the reckoning for the time being, Gibbs needed to make the left-back spot his own. Instead Ryan Bertrand will continue to breathe down his neck.
Jordan Henderson – 6
Another baffling Hodgson decision left Henderson playing in an unfamiliar full-back position for the second 45, and one that almost cost his side. Although Henderson adapted well and played his part in England’s second goal, he was almost caught out at the back on two occasions. We doubt Brendan Rodgers will be using Henderson as a replacement for Glen Johnson next season on this showing.
Jack Wilshere – 10
Aside from his two screamers, Wilshere showed incredible maturity considering he lost a midfield partner in Henderson at the beginning of the second half. It was the all-round midfield performance England and Arsenal have been waiting for and all the more impressive having spent the past few months out injured. This feels like the start of something very special for Wilshere and England.
Fabian Delph – 6
Short of international quality, Hodgson clearly trusts Delph to press the opposition, which he did for the full 90. However, Delph’s limitations in possession were clear and made some poor decisions going forward when England were under pressure.
Raheem Sterling – 7
Missed a huge opening early on that could have been very costly, but showed some neat footwork elsewhere. Put balls into the box that the likes of Harry Kane and Charlie Austin have been feeding off of all season as England failed to get men in and around the area when Slovenia pushed men back.
Andros Townsend – 4
Another man Hodgson trusts, Townsend may now need to play regularly for Spurs to force his way back into the squad after a dismal display. Shot from miles out far too regularly and went missing for periods on the wing. The in-form Theo Walcott would have been a much better option.
Wayne Rooney – 6
He may have moved level with Gary Lineker in second on England’s list of all-time top scorers with his 48th strike but Rooney could have eclipsed Bobby Charlton’s record in Ljubljana. Guilty of missing several sitters, his failure to hit the target with two of those was inexcusable. Showed fantastic composure for his goal but that should not blur a hapless afternoon for England’s hitman.
Adam Lallana – 6: His role in Wilshere’s goals has been overstated as his poor decision making and then subsequent foul inadvertently led to the opener. Could easily have ended the move had the referee blown his whistle. Showed neat skill for the Arsenal man’s second but by that point Slovenia had come forwards and the space had opened up.
Theo Walcott – 6: Looked threatening and a far better option than Townsend. Didn’t mean to set up Rooney for the winner but his pace clearly scared the retreating Slovenia defence.
Nathaniel Clyne – 9: Didn’t even need to play to show Roy Hodgson that he was wrong to omit the Southampton full-back. Although his impact was minimal, displays from others have surely nailed down his inclusion in the next starting XI.