LONDON: Wayne Rooney became England’s all-time leading goalscorer by scoring his 50th goal for the country in the 2-0 Euro 2016 qualifying win over Switzerland at Wembley.
Rooney converted an 84th-minute penalty to beat Sir Bobby Charlton’s mark after an earlier goal from Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
He said: “To be the country’s all-time leading goalscorer before the age of 30 is not something I could ever have dreamed of and I’m extremely proud tonight. I was a bit emotional out there and I’m happy it’s done. Hhopefully I can kick on from here and concentrate on the team and our success in the future.”
Rooney thumped his spot-kick past Swiss keeper Yann Sommer after Raheem Sterling was fouled in the box before being congratulated by his delighted team-mates.
Rooney added: “I knew myself it was a big moment for me and I just picked my corner and put my boot through it to get as much power as possible and make it hard for the keeper. He got a touch but thankfully it had too much power.
“I went through a spell around 2008 when I didn’t score for two years for England, and since Roy’s [manager Roy Hodgson] come in I’ve scored a lot of goals and I’m grateful to Roy for letting me play with the freedom that I enjoy.”
Hodgson hailed Rooney’s exploits as an “amazing achievement” and added: “My mind also goes to Sir Bobby because he was one of our greatest ever players and I’m hoping he’ll be pleased that his record has been surpassed.
“We enjoyed the moment with him and we will see what the future brings but the most important thing we have to do is make sure we keep improving our performances because today we didn’t play as well as we could have done and we were fortunate to come out 2-0 winners.”
Elsewhere in the group third-placed Slovenia made hard work of keeping up the pressure on the Swiss as they edged to a 1-0 win over Estonia in Maribor. Robert Beric’s 63rd-minute effort proved just enough for the Slovenians to reduce the gap to three points on their rivals for the second qualifying berth.
Matteo Vitaioli ended San Marino’s run of 34 away games without a goal but it was not enough to prevent a 2-1 defeat to Lithuania in Group E. Lukas Spalvis broke the visitors’ hearts in injury-time to deny them a rare point after both sides had been reduced to 10 men.
Fedor Cernych put the hosts in front after seven minutes but Lithuanian goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis was sent off after 50 minutes, and five minutes later Vitaioli struck the equaliser. But after San Marino’s Nicola Chiaruzzi was sent off in the 88th minute, Spalvis struck the winner in the first minute of added time.
In Group G Austria booked their place at Euro 2016 in emphatic fashion with a thumping 4-1 win away to Sweden. The visitors strengthened their hold on top spot in the pool thanks to a rampant display which included two goals from Martin Harnik.
The Stuttgart forward added to David Alaba’s early penalty to put Austria two up at the break and then added the fourth a minute from time after Marc Janko had scored the third. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an injury-time consolation for the Swedes, but they had nothing to celebrate, slipping two points behind Russia in the race for second spot.
The only points Austria have dropped in the group came in the reverse fixture when they were held to a 1-1 draw by Sweden, but there was no doubt about Tuesday’s result.
Artem Dzjuba scored four times as Russia climbed into second place in qualifying Group G after a thumping 7-0 win in Liechtenstein. The Spartak Moscow striker opened his account after 21 minutes when Roman Shirokov unselfishly set him up to tap into an empty net.
In the 40th minute Daniel Kaufmann was sent off for fouling Dzjuba and Aleksandr Kokorin rolled in the penalty, before Dzjuba hit the third on the stroke of half-time.
After the break Dzjuba met Dmitri Kombarov’s cross to complete his treble from close range. Fedor Smolov and Alan Dzagoev were also on target before Dzjuba wrapped up the scoring with his fourth in the final minute.
Montenegro kept their faint hopes of qualifying alive with a 2-0 win in Moldova.
The visitors, who beat Leichtenstein on Saturday, made it back-to-back victories in Group G thanks to a Stefan Savic strike and Petru Racu’s own-goal.
Savic got the final touch on Stevan Jovetic’s cross-shot at the far post after just nine minutes. In the 65th minute Fatos Beciraj’s shot from the edge of the box took a big deflection off the unfortunate Racu to wrap up the win.
Montenegro are now three points behind second-placed Russia and one off Sweden in third, with two games remaining.
In Group C Spain moved closer to booking their place in France next summer as Juan Mata’s eighth-minute strike gave them a hard-fought 1-0 win over Macedonia in Skopje.
Their cause was helped by a goalless draw between Slovakia and Ukraine in Zilina which leaves the Spanish two points clear at the top of Group C with the Slovaks maintaining their three-point gap over Mikhail Formenko’s men.
Mikhail Gordeichuk scored in each half as Belarus beat Luxembourg 2-0 at the Borisov Arena to clinch their second win in Euro 2016 qualifying.
The BATE Borisov midfielder, playing at his club’s stadium, put the home side ahead in the 34th minute before adding his second of the night in the 62nd minute as Belarus clinched their first win in six competitive home games.
The victory has lifted fourth-place Belarus three points clear of Luxembourg, who are fifth in the pool.