LONDON: Wayne Rooney equalled Bobby Charlton’s England goal-scoring record as Roy Hodgson’s side became the first team to qualify for Euro 2016 by crushing San Marino 6-0, while defending champions Spain avenged a rare loss to Slovakia with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
Rooney opened the scoring in Serravalle from the penalty spot in the 13th minute, leaving him with an identical international record to 1966 World Cup-winner Charlton of 106 caps and 49 goals.
While England secured their place from Group ‘E’, Spain pulled level on points with Slovakia and took the lead of Group ‘C’ on head-to-head results.
Spain got early goals from Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta to deal Slovakia their first loss in qualifying for next summer’s tournament. Last year, Slovakia ended Spain’s 36-game unbeaten run in qualifiers.
Also, Sweden lost star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic to injury in a 1-0 defeat to Russia in Group ‘G’.
England achieved their target in Serravalle but Rooney fell just short of his as he was taken off just before the hour mark, denying him a chance of a second goal against a tiring home defence late on.
He’ll get a first chance to reach 50 goals against Switzerland on Tuesday.
“It would have been great if it had happened tonight,” Rooney said, “but it will be [great] on Tuesday, if selected, with the tradition at Wembley.”
England added to Rooney’s goal before the interval via a Cristian Brolli own goal, and Ross Barkley’s first goal for his country, along with late efforts from substitutes Theo Walcott, who scored twice, and Harry Kane completed a routine win.
England have won all seven games in qualifying Group E and need only draw with the Swiss at Wembley to be sure of finishing in top spot. However, Switzerland — six points behind England — make the trip buoyed by their remarkable performance in beating Slovenia 3-2 in Basel.
Slovenia looked set to claim a crucial win thanks to goals either side of half-time from Milivoje Novakovic and captain Bostjan Cesar.
But the hosts were given hope when Borussia Moenchengladbach striker Josip Drmic came off the bench to pull a goal back in the 80th minute.
His fellow substitute Valentin Stocker equalised with six minutes to go and the stage was set for Drmic to score a dramatic winning goal four minutes into injury time.
Estonia remain right in contention too after a second-half Konstantin Vassiljev strike secured a 1-0 win at home to Lithuania.
Last year’s shock defeat at Slovakia on the heels of Spain’s poor showing at the 2014 World Cup had many wondering if it was time for coach Vicente del Bosque to start over.
And although he promised to rejuvenate his side, a starting lineup of 11 veterans from the Brazil World Cup played like two-time European champions and could have won by a wider margin.
“We needed to win to put ourselves in a good situation. It’s job done and now we need to think about the next match [against Macedonia on Tuesday],” Iniesta told Television Espanola.
Alba headed in a well-placed pass from David Silva to get Spain going in the fifth minute before Iniesta converted Spain’s dominance into a second goal after Diego Costa earned a penalty kick a half-hour in.
Ukraine beat Belarus 3-1 with first-half goals from Artem Kravets, Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, the latter a penalty, to remain in third place, three points behind Spain and Slovakia and set up a big match at Slovakia on Tuesday.
Sergei Kornilenko scored a second-half penalty for the visitors and Ukraine ended the game with 10 men after Denys Garmash was dismissed in stoppage time.
Austria need just one more point to qualify for a European Championship outside their own country for the first time after beating Moldova 1-0 in Vienna in Group ‘G’ to win their sixth game in a row.
Zlatko Junuzovic of Werder Bremen got the only goal of the game in the 52nd minute, leaving Marcel Koller’s side on the brink of qualification.
They would have been assured of their finals berth already had Russia not beaten Sweden, but Artem Dzyuba scored to hand the hosts a 1-0 win in Moscow in their first qualifier since Leonid Slutsky replaced Fabio Capello as coach.
Dzyuba’s 38th-minute strike ended Russia’s 11-month wait for a competitive goal before a hectic end to the match saw both teams fail to convert good chances.
With only the top two guaranteed automatic qualification, Sweden — who saw captain Ibrahimovic go off injured — remain in second place before hosting Austria on Tuesday, but Russia are just a point back in third and go to Liechtenstein next.
“It was a very important match,” Slutsky said. “Now we need to win all of the remaining matches and wait for our rivals to slip up.”
Ibrahimovic was replaced by Ola Toivonen at half-time after complaining of a leg injury. Coach Erik Hamren said it was not clear if Ibrahimovic would be able to play against Austria on Tuesday.
“It’s a big difference if he’s playing or not, because he’s a world-class player,” Hamren said.
Also, fourth-placed Montenegro won 2-0 at home against Liechtenstein with goals from Fatos Beciraj and Stevan Jovetic.