England labour to dull 3-1 win over Slovenia
(Wayne Rooney, 58; Danny Welbeck, 64, 72)
(Jordan Henderson, 57 og)
It was laboured, it was dull and it was unlikely to worry the rest of the continent, but it was done.
England's 3-1 victory over Slovenia at Wembley yesterday morning (Singapore time) was a fourth consecutive victory in this qualifying campaign, a record that some of Europe's biggest names, including Germany, Holland and Spain, would love to boast.
It was supposed to be Wayne Rooney's night.
It became Danny Welbeck's night. But, for a very short time, it looked like it might be Slovenia's night.
Slovenia, whose spirited resistance very nearly ended England's 2010 World Cup in the group stages, took the lead just before the hour mark, with Jordan Henderson heading past his own goalkeeper, but the goal only served to rouse England from their slumber.
Sixty seconds later, Wayne Rooney was felled in the penalty area and scored the resultant penalty.
Six minutes after that, a scuffed effort from Welbeck deceived Samir Handanovic and put England in front.
In the 72nd minute, just 15 minutes after Slovenia's opening goal, they were 3-1 up, Welbeck hitting the back of the net once again.
There's a lesson here. If the English are sleeping, let them sleep.
The night began with the presentation of a golden cap to England's latest centurion, Rooney.
His 100th cap was later followed by a 44th goal, but there seemed little sign of that in the first half.
Indeed, there seemed little sign of any life at all.
There were positives for England, if you looked hard.
Their pressing beyond the halfway line was excellent. Rooney and Raheem Sterling led the charge to hassle and harry their opponents, preventing them from building up any momentum.
At the back, the visitors barely created a chance. Unfortunately for Roy Hodgson, neither did England.
Hodgson is unfairly categorised as a long-ball manager when in fact, his England teams have tried, if not always with success, to play attractive football ever since the necessarily prosaic European Championship campaign in Eastern Europe in 2012.
But not on this occasion. Long balls were repeatedly hoofed up front and then lost.
In the middle, Henderson's passing was notably off-key, though in this he was hardly alone.
It was flat, it was boring and it was no surprise that so few of the corporate seats were filled after the break. If you had access to a free food and drink in the warm, would you come out for another 45 minutes of dirge?
There were suggestions that this wretchedness was the fault of the pitch, badly marked by a recent American Football extravaganza.
The raggedy surface would certainly support a decision to play a more direct style of football, even if Hodgson had publicly laughed off the complaints of the Slovenian management.
Nevertheless, a team with the calibre of players that England boast should be able to cope with worse pitches than this.
Jack Wilshere was awarded the Man of the Match, a reasonable decision, but it was Welbeck who will take the most from the encounter.
Two more international goals for the man they said couldn't finish. His desperation to score a hat-trick saw him wander into Rooney's path towards the end of the game, an act of clumsiness that brought a furious reaction from his captain. They will be on opposite sides this weekend when Arsenal face Manchester United.
But it will be Hodgson who leaves Wembley feeling most satisfied.
England are unbeaten, have not dropped a single point, have a double-figure goal difference, a six-point lead at the top.
After the small matter of Scotland tomorrow (Wednesday morning, Singapore), the England manager has four months to prepare for his next challenge: Lithuania at home.
Boring it may have been, but it was certainly effective. England are going to France in 2016.
Roy Hodgson and his team have reason to celebrate.
England are unbeaten, have not dropped a single point, have a double-figure goal difference, a six-point lead at the top and are almost there.