KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY: England exorcised the ghost of 1973 in defeating Poland, their old nemesis, by 2-0 to reach the World Cup finals in Brazil after a thrilling qualifying tie at Wembley.
Man of the match Wayne Rooney and skipper Steven Gerrard scored the goals, towards the end of the first and second halves respectively. E
Elsewhere World Cup holders Spain as well as Bosnia, for the first time, and Russia, under ex-England coach Fabio Capello, were already celebrating having joined the elite planning for next June in South America.
Roy Hodgson’s team were clearly living on their nerves throughout the first half. They threw caution to the wind in piling forward in search of the opening goal and were caught badly on the counter several times. On at least one occasion Robert Lewandowski shot wide when the Bundesliga’s top scorer must surely have found it easier to score.
Andros Townsend hit the bar,Chris Smalling was a split-second too late to catch a Steven Gerrard free kick, Danny Welbeck both dive-headed and shot wide from close range.
Finally, all the pressure paid off when Leighton Baines crossed superbly from the left and Wayne Rooney rose to head home his 38th goal for his country.
England began the second half equally eagerly. After one early scare from newly-arrived substitute Mateusz Klich they pressed upfield and Gary Cahill was denied a further strike only by a fine leaping save from keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
Finally, just as all the worst fears were beginning to build, Gerrard powered his way through the Polish defence and jabbed the decisive strike beyond Szczesny.