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Friday 24 November 2017

England's Rashford goes from zero to hero

England 2 Slovakia 1

Marcus Rashford of England. Photo: Getty Images
Marcus Rashford of England. Photo: Getty Images

Marcus Rashford's attitude was as impressive as his aptitude as the callow England forward fired Gareth Southgate's men to the brink of World Cup qualification after gifting Slovakia an early lead.

Friday's flattering 4-0 win in Malta may have frustrated but this crunch Group F clash was on course to end in disaster after the visitors, ready to usurp England as leaders in Group F, went ahead inside three minutes.

Stanislav Lobotka stunned Wembley after brutally punishing an error by Rashford, but the 19-year-old rallied rather than wilted and set-up Eric Dier before stylishly wrapping up a 2-1 win to leave England on the cusp of next summer's tournament in Russia.

Southgate's men now boast a five-point cushion over second-place Slovakia after a comeback win that stirred most of the 67,823 in attendance, just days after an underwhelming display led some travelling fans to turn on their team in Malta.

It was not all straightforward last night, though, as Lobotka struck early for the confident visitors, who England struggled to open up due to a worrying lack of creativity and guile.

The performance in last year's ignominious Euro 2016 exit to Iceland sprang to mind, but England eventually kicked into life and drew level as Dier impressively turned in Rashford's smart corner.

The Manchester United attacker could have stuttered having gifted Slovakia their goal, but he grew as the match wore on and fired home from outside the box to secure a crucial three points.

Things could have been so much different had Kyle Walker's clumsy challenge brought a red card late in the first half, but Southgate's men will not care a jot after tightening their grip on Group F.

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