Rooney salutes debut hero Townsend
Wayne Rooney saluted Andros Townsend after the Tottenham Hotspur winger made a memorable England debut in his country's crucial 4-1 win over Montenegro at Wembley.
Townsend was surprisingly handed his first England cap by manager Roy Hodgson in the must-win Group H tie and the 22-year-old repaid his manager's faith with a scintillating display on Friday.
Rooney bagged his sixth goal in five World Cup qualifiers early in the second half when Townsend's surging run and cross allowed the Manchester United striker to open the scoring after Danny Welbeck's shot was saved.
England briefly led 2-0 through a Branko Boskovic own goal, but nerves were jangling when Dejan Damjanovic pulled one back for Montenegro.
With England's World Cup hopes in danger following news of Ukraine's win over Poland -- a result that would have left Hodgson's men in second place if they failed to beat Montenegro -- Townsend rode to the rescue with a stunning strike.
A late Daniel Sturridge penalty put further gloss on a memorable night for England, who now just need a win at home to Poland on Tuesday to book their place at next year's finals in Brazil.
Rooney, whose strike was his 37th England goal, admitted he had been extremely impressed with the way Townsend rose to the occasion.
"It was some debut," he said. "In such a high-pressure game, to perform like that was incredible."
Hodgson pinpointed Townsend's 78th-minute goal as a key turning point in the match.
"Andros's goal took the wind out of their sails and gave us time to compose ourselves again," Hodgson said.
"He made a big impact. He got the man-of-the-match, which he must be delighted with. It can't be easy for a young man making his debut in a game of that nature.
"He deserves all the credit, which I am sure he is going to get because he played well, with a calmness and composure which I have seen him play with for QPR and, most recently, Tottenham.
"I was fortunate he was able to reproduce it tonight (Friday)."
Townsend's dream debut is the latest step in his long journey to the top of the game.
During four years at Tottenham, he has been loaned out to more clubs than he has made Premier League starts, with spells learning his trade far from the bright lights of Wembley at Yeovil Town, Leyton Orient, Milton Keynes Dons, Ipswich Town, Watford, Millwall, Leeds United and Birmingham City.
It was during another loan stint at QPR last season that he finally proved he could thrive in the top flight and Spurs coach Andre Villas-Boas was impressed enough to hand him a place in the starting line-up this season.
His refreshing lack of fear, so often a problem for England at Wembley, shone through as he took the attack to Montenegro and Rooney acknowledged it was thrilling to be being part of an attacking quartet with Townsend, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.
"It was great," Rooney said. "It was exciting. A lot of speed, and the experience of Steve (Gerrard) and Frank (Lampard) behind us.
"The manager gave us the freedom and the platform to go out and express ourselves."
Meanwhile, England captain Steven Gerrard paid tribute to Hodgson for keeping a cool head after recent criticism of the team's perceived negative play.
"The players and manager took a bit of criticism after the 0-0 draw in Ukraine and I thought his selection was very bold here," Gerrard said.
"He went for three forwards and an out-and-out winger, and it paid off. Well done to him for his bravery."
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