England WILL be boarding the plane that takes them to Brazil next summer and the World Cup finals. A must win game, if England wished to avoid scenes similar to 1973 against Poland and 2007 against Croatia.
England created a number of chances throughout the match, that inevitably lead to a Wayne Rooney headed goal before half-time and captain Steven Gerrard netting at the end of the second, ending English nerves around Wembley.
When it mattered England delivered. Andros Townsend delivered once again, proving his worth once more to manager Roy Hodgson. Leighton Baines was constantly in space providing crosses into the box and solid defending when it counted. Rooney deservedly received Man of the Match for his efforts. Chris Smalling, who was brought in at right back to replace the suspended Kyle Walker, also put in a solid performance.
Hodgson brushed aside his usually cautious nature and put out a team that was full of attacking intent.
As we know, it’s never that simple when England is playing. Wojciech Szczesny collected the ball from an England corner and fed Robert Lewandowski who carried the ball from his own half to the edge of England’s box but the shot was too timid to trouble Joe Hart.
Minutes later a Townsend strike was saved by Szczesny and the follow-up headed wide by Danny Welbeck. A Gerrard free kick whipped in was just missed by inches from Smalling. The 20,000 or so Polish fans were noisy, stifling out English support.
Whilst England were creating chances Poland always remained a threat. Another counter attack from an England corner saw Adrian Mierzejewski carry the ball from his own half. Jakub Blaszczykowski dummied his pass, but once again Lewandowski’s shot was mishit and trickled wide. England needed to reorganise themselves at the back.
Give the ball the Townsend seemed to be the objective. His shot had Szczesny beaten but rattled the crossbar. Szczesny saved a second attempt from Daniel Sturridge.
Despite their efforts it seemed not-to-be for the Three Lions as Danny Welbeck unbelievably missed from six yards out. Would these squandered chances come back to haunt them?
Still they remained composed and after a slow, calm build-up, the ball eventually worked its way out to Baines again on the left. His cross met the head of Rooney, who sent the ball past the left of Szczesny. Seven goals in six qualifying games. Nerves were steadied before the break.
England emerged for the second half knowing they still needed a second. Poland almost equalised 23 seconds into the half, Hart saving substitute Mateusz Klich’s shot.
England soon began plugging away. Gary Cahill’s header from a Gerrard corner was saved. Grzegorz Krychowiak almost put the ball into his own net when defending a Rooney cross. Gerrard dragged the ball wide.
Hart did well to race off his line and stand tall as Lewandowski found himself behind the England defence. A Polish fan running on to the field, much to their own team’s frustration as they tried to take the throw in, momentarily interrupted the match. A short break for England.
Szczesny continuously kept England at bay. A Townsend shot was fired straight at the Arsenal keeper. Another save from a Rooney curler. England’s number 10 was working incredibly hard, feeding balls wide and chasing players down. It may have been impossible for Poland to qualify but they remained determined to ensure England did not have an easy ride.
England finally broke through at the end. Substitute James Milner lifted the ball forward for Gerrard who ran through to toe poke past Szczesny for England’s second. ‘We are going to Brazil next summer’ was the announcement at the full time whistle. Never in doubt.