Marcus Rashford Lifts England to Win over Slovakia in World Cup 2018 Qualifying

Rory MarsdenFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: Marcus Rashford of England celebrates after he scores to make it 2-1 during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Slovakia at Wembley Stadium on September 4, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images

Marcus Rashford's fine second-half winner saw England to a 2-1 comeback victory over Slovakia at Wembley Stadium on Monday and put Gareth Southgate's men in touching distance of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

A dreadful opening half-hour for England saw them 1-0 down inside three minutes to a well-taken Stanislav Lobotka strike before they struggled to assert any kind of authority on the clinical visitors.

However, Eric Dier netted from a corner eight minutes from half-time to level the clash. And Rashford won the qualifier with an excellent strike from the edge of the box just before the hour in a much-improved second 45 minutes for England in London.

With two games remaining of the European qualifying campaign for next year's Russia tournament, England are now five points clear of the second-placed Slovaks in Group F. 

Squawka provided both lineups ahead of kick-off:

There were signs from the off that it could be a difficult night for England, as Slovakia showed admirable intensity, and a Rashford mistake led to Lobotka's opener.

The Manchester United forward lost the ball cheaply near the edge of his box, and Adam Nemec's clipped delivery into the area was controlled brilliantly by Lobotka on his right foot before he beat Joe Hart with his left.

The England goalkeeper could arguably have done better as the finish passed close to his left hand, but it was a well-worked goal for the visitors. 

Slovakia's midfielder Stanislav Lobotka shoots past England's goalkeeper Joe Hart (R) to score the opening goal of the World Cup 2018 qualification football match between England and Slovakia at Wembley Stadium in London on September 4, 2017.  / AFP PHOTO
GLYN KIRK/Getty Images

Slovakia allowed the Three Lions plenty of the ball after going ahead, but England showed little quality, with missed passes and sloppy control costing them regularly as they tried to assert themselves.

Half-chances fell to Rashford, Dele Alli and Harry Kane, but Slovakia were well-organised and compact, and they looked likely to take their lead into half-time.

However, a smart piece of opportunism from midfielder Dier levelled the scores in the 37th minute. The Tottenham Hotspur man beat marker Nemec to an under-hit Rashford corner at the near post and clipped home a no-look finish.

Kyle Walker then prevented a potential one-on-one situation for Hart as he dispossessed Vladimir Weiss, who was through on goal, in the dying moments of the half, but he was arguably fortunate to stay on the pitch, per ITV Football:

The hosts looked much better early in the second half—hardly a challenge given their largely dreadful opening 45 minutes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kane and Alli all had chances soon after the break, but it was Rashford who eventually put England ahead.

The 19-year-old received the ball on the right edge of the box after a Jordan Henderson interception, and his powerful shot beat goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and nestled in the far corner.

Per ESPN.co.uk's Mark Ogden, it was an impressive response from Rashford after his early mistake played a part in Slovakia's goal:

Slovakia had their chances to score in the second half, Nemec's early effort most notably drawing a decent save from Hart.

But England eventually held on to their lead with relative ease and, despite a poor opening half, got the win they needed to move closer to the World Cup in Russia.