England thankful to 'wonder Wayne'
20 June 2012, 16:40
Poland / Ukraine - England's press on Wednesday hailed the return of match-winning striker Wayne Rooney, but accepted the national team had been fortunate to top their Euro 2012 group after a gritty win over hosts Ukraine.
Rooney struggled on his return after missing the opening two games due to suspension, but headed the decisive goal early in the second-half to earn a 1-0 win which sees England avoid champions Spain in the quarterfinals.
Fleet Street paid humorous tribute to the talismanic forward's well-publicised hair transplant.
"Hair Weave Go", ran the Daily Mirror, while popular tabloid the Sun carried "Weave Done It" as its front-page headline.
"Thatch the way to do it," said the Daily Mail. "Weave got Italy next, thanks to Rooney."
England survived a huge scare in the 62nd minute when Marko Devic had a clear goal wrongly disallowed.
The Daily Telegraph celebrated the return of "big man" Rooney and the intervention of "Lady Luck, fluttering her eyelashes at the grateful English", but called the blundering officials "as much use as a chocolate samovah".
The paper's match report said England fans were "loving it in Ukraine, revelling in the sight of Rooney returning and Steven Gerrard giving a midfield display of athleticism and authority."
Looking forward to Sunday's showdown with Italy, the Telegraph said England would approach the match with "respect but no fear".
Matt Dickinson of The Times said Rooney's close-range effort could be one of the celebrated striker's career high-points.
"It was probably not the goal that Wayne Rooney visualised in those pre-match dreams that he uses to build his confidence," he suggested. "But who cared about that?
"This was not about beauty or excellence. The fantasy came in the drama, and the significance. Scrappy, yes. But it might just have felt like the sweetest goal of Rooney's life," he added.
Times colleague Oliver Kay lauded the spirit shown by England in the face of a hostile home crowd, saying "it took guts, it took concentration."
"They have performed as a team: not always with great finesse but certainly with the dedication and unity of purpose that they have so often been accused of lacking on the biggest stage," he added.
However, both agreed that the traditional failings of ball retention were still a cause for concern.
The Guardian highlighted Rooney's coolness, which was in sharp contrast to the sweltering pre-match conditions in Donetsk, and the team's "blend of resilience and opportunism that was always going to be necessary to progress."
- Sapa / AFP