England vs. Montenegro: Final score 4-1, Three Lions cruise against Montenegro

Mike Hewitt

Roy Hodgson's England needed a strong performance to have much hope of reaching next year's World Cup finals, and they delivered with a 4-1 win against Montenegro. Another win (against Poland) will see them through.

England are still very much in the running for a spot in Brazil after a 4-1 win at home against Montenegro. The pressure was on the Three Lions, who could easily have failed to qualify had they not beaten their guests on Friday, but Roy Hodgson's side put in a professional display and after they went ahead early in the second half there was never any doubt as to who would take home the points.

The first half was fairly quiet. Montenegro failed to manifest as any kind of attacking force, and England weren't much better for most of the opening spell, only opening up in the final ten minutes or so. But the hosts should still have scored -- Steven Gerrard had a curling shot well saved by Vukasin Poleksic, and Wayne Rooney contrived to miss an open goal after Poleksic parried Andros Townsend's effort into his path, the Manchester United striker only succeeding in hitting the post.

But the second saw immediate action. The visitors tried to push up harder, aware that a win would put them in a position to secure at least a playoff spot, but that opened them up to the counterattack, and the Three Lions duly pounced. Townsend was the instigator, plowing his way down the right wing and aiming a cuttback at Daniel Sturridge. The ball was deflected, but only to Welbeck, whose shot forced Poleksic to parry once more. This time Rooney didn't miss.

England were almost immediately pegged back, with Joe Hart forced into a very good save from the head of Dejan Damjanovic, who could easily have scored after Kyle Walker brought down Stevan Jovetic for a tasty Montenegro free kick. But Montenegro, as it turns out, were only a serious threat to themselves. Welbeck's cutback didn't look as though it would pose much threat, but that didn't stop Branko Boskovic embarking on a rather bizarre journey into madness, the former DC United midfielder taking it upon himself to steer a toe-poke past Poleksic to make it 2-0.

Jovetic gave Hart a scare when his 25-yard piledriver beat his club teammate but cannoned back off the crossbar rather than finding the back of the net, but it seemed as though the former Fiorentina man's effort was going to be a brief blip in a dominant display from the hosts, who should have added to their lead through Gerrard and then Welbeck. Surprisingly, however, it was the visitors who scored next, Damjanovic (who looked suspiciously offside) turning in a Fatos Beqiraj shot and causing renewed nail-biting in the England dugout.

Fortunately for the hosts, Townsend was on hand to wrap it up. After Rooney and Welbeck were thwarted in their attempts to worm their way into the Montenegrin box, the debutante showed them that they really didn't need to bother with the buildup play business, running through the centre and then firing a 25-yard right-footed shot in off the post.

Townsend's strike killed off the match, leaving England in good spirits on the night, and a Sturridge penalty made the Wembley crowd even happier. But they're still not done yet -- an automatic World Cup berth hinges on them beating Poland at home on Tuesday. Take three points in that game, and Brazil beckons. If they don't... well, the playoffs don't sound like much fun.

England starting line-up (4-4-1-1): Joe Hart; Kyle Walker, Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill, Leighton Baines; Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andros Townsend, Danny Welbeck; Wayne Rooney; Daniel Sturridge.

Goals: Rooney 49', Boskovic 62' (og), Townsend 78', Sturridge 90'.

Montenegro starting line-up (4-3-3): Vukasin Poleksic; Milan Jovanovic, Savo Pavicevic, Stefan Savic, Vladimir Volkov; Mitar Novakovic, Elsad Zverotic, Simon Vukcevic; Filip Kasalica, Stevan Jovetic, Dejan Damjanovic.

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