Townsend stars as England edge ever closer to qualification

Andros Townsend enjoyed a fine debut for England on Friday night, as Roy Hodgson’s side took a huge step towards World Cup qualification.

The Tottenham Hotspur winger was the shock inclusion on the starting sheet against Montenegro, as Hodgson took the brave step of selecting him in preference to the safer option of James Milner. Townsend, who is finally making his mark at White Hart Lane this season after nine loan spells away from the club, poses more of an attacking threat than the Manchester City star, as he went on to demonstrate at Wembley.

After a first-half stalemate, the 22-year-old was involved in the opening goal when he ran half the length of the pitch to help create Wayne Rooney’s opener on 48 minutes. This lead was doubled when Branko Boskovic put through his own net just past the hour mark, yet a Dejan Damjanovic goal looked set to result in a nervy last 20 minutes.

However, these nerves were diminished on 78 minutes when Townsend provided the moment of the match. Spinning away from Simon Vukcevic, the youngster accelerated towards goal and delivered a right-foot effort which curled away from the reach of Vukasin Poleksic and into the bottom corner of the net. To make the scoreline more emphatic than the actual match perhaps indicated, Daniel Sturridge, in fine goalscoring form for Liverpool, made it 4-1 when he converted a stoppage time penalty.

England knew that victory in their last two matches would guarantee qualification to Brazil, and with half the job done, they must now defeat Poland at Wembley on Tuesday. Anything less than that would see Hodgson’s side drop into the playoff position, given that Ukraine, their closest rivals, are all but certain to collect three points against San Marino.

“We know the job’s only half done,” said Hodgson. “We want to qualify direct, so we need to win against Poland. That won’t be easy. That’ll be difficult.  But I’ll always back my players. I trust the players. We’ve had nine qualifying games now and we’re still unbeaten. We’re capable of going unbeaten through the 10th and, with the backing of the fans and players with the talent we have, I’d be foolish not to back the players. Our attitude will be exactly the same. It is slightly less of a knife against our throat.”


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