England got their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign off to the perfect start with a 2-0 win against their biggest rivals in Group E, Switzerland, in Basel. New Arsenal forward Danny Welbeck scored twice in the second half during a promising performance from the Three Lions, who have put themselves in prime position to qualify with only one game played – only Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania and San Marino stand in their way.
England created a few good openings in the first 45 minutes, but time and again the final pass or finish was simply lacking in the quality needed at the highest level. Without his partner-in-crime Daniel Sturridge ahead of him, Raheem Sterling was not having as much of an effect on the game as he might have liked although he created the first chance, running at the defense in a three-on-two situation after making an interception from a poor pass at the back. However, with Welbeck to his right and captain Rooney to the left, he looked to pick out the latter and his pass was poor, forcing Rooney into a weak effort straight at the keeper.
Later in the half, England had another chance from an interception as Welbeck picked the ball up on the right and ran inside towards the goal, before playing an awful pass in between Sterling and Rooney, waiting expectantly in the penalty area.
The home side were not without chances of their own; Joe Hart made a fine save with his outstretched leg from Haris Seferovic after the forward had been released by Xherdan Shaqiri, and he could have been away through on goal had he not tripped over the ankle of the fallen Phil Jones earlier in the half. With only a few moments of the half remaining, Jones met a Rooney corner from the right with a powerful low header, but saw it exceptionally saved by Yann Sommer. At half time, the two teams went in goalless.
Both sides played with a little more verve in the second half, though in truth Switzerland probably had the better of the chances. Seferovic had more than one opportunity to score, striking the bar from an offside position and having a powerful half volley well saved by Hart. Substitute Josip Drmic, who scored for fun in the Bundesliga last season, ran clear on goal (though he was offside) and took the ball past Joe Hart, but Gary Cahill slid heroically in at the near post to block his goal-bound shot.
However, the defining moment of the game came with a little over half an hour to go. After a spell of Switzerland pressure, the Three Lions broke forward through Rooney, who fed Sterling in some space down the left. The Liverpool man put a delicious low ball across the line of the six-yard box and Welbeck was on hand to shin the ball into the bottom corner.
From that moment, England were in control of the game despite their hosts having more of the ball, and it didn’t come as a huge surprise when Welbeck added his second in the dying minutes of stoppage time. Sterling played the role of provider again, finding Rickie Lambert – on as a substitute – who held the ball up for Welbeck, who took it off him and lifted the ball with some power into the same bottom corner of the goal.