Defoe fires England through

  • Last Updated: June 24 2010, 19:54 BST

England's World Cup dream lives on after they beat Slovenia 1-0 in a nerve-jangling clash in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday to book a place in the knockout stages.

  • Jermain Defoe celebrates firing England in front.
  • Defoe turns home Milner's cross to put England ahead. 
  • Delight for Capello at the final whistle. 

Jermain Defoe's first-half goal was enough to give Fabio Capello's side a place in the last 16 and banish the ugly memories of that horror show against Algeria, as well as the recriminations that followed.

They finish in second place in Group C after a last-gasp United States winner over Algeria saw the Americans clinch top spot. And a second-round meeting with the winners of Group D in Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon now awaits.

Capello rang the changes for this make-or-break showdown, restoring James Milner on the right and bringing in Defoe to partner Wayne Rooney up front. Meanwhile Matthew Upson lined up alongside John Terry at the centre of the defence.

And despite some nervy early moments they gradually got a foothold in the game, displaying much more purpose than against the Algerians.

Their reward came on 22 minutes with Milner and Defoe both justifying their inclusions by combining to fire Capello's men ahead.

Milner delivered a tantalising cross onto the edge of the six-yard box and Defoe slipped in front of his marker to power the ball home on the volley with the outside of his right foot.

That goal gave England a massive shot in the arm and they looked like a team shorn of the pressure and frustration that had dogged their displays so far.

Frank Lampard shot over an open goal after Samir Handanovic spilled another excellent Milner cross, and then the Slovenia 'keeper atoned with a superb double save to deny first Defoe and then a low curler from Steven Gerrard.

England almost doubled their advantage at the start of the second half, again with Defoe at the heart of it.

Rooney took a corner quickly and when it was cleared to the edge of the box Gerrard headed forward to find the Tottenham striker unmarked on the penalty spot. He flicked an effort with his right boot but it went agonisingly wide of the post.

Then the excellent Glen Johnson powered forward before going down under a challenge on the edge of the Slovenia box. Calls for a free-kick or a penalty came to nothing, and Johnson's misery was complete when he was mystifyingly shown a yellow card.

England were creating chances at will now and Terry and Rooney both went close in the space of 60 seconds.

First the Chelsea skipper forced Handanovic into a fine save with a powerful back-post header from Gareth Barry's corner.

And then Handanovic again excelled, pushing Rooney's shot onto the post after the Manchester United man had been found unmarked on the penalty spot by a measured Lampard pass.

While England were dominating possession and chances created, Slovenia weren't totally out of it.

They won a string of free-kicks in promising positions but the educated left foot of Valter Birsa couldn't find a way past David James.

And when England gave the ball away just outside their own box the same player's left-foot curler was again straight at the England goalkeeper.

England's nerves were jangling on 67 minutes when Slovenia had a treble chance to level the scoreline.

Milivoje Novakovic and Zlatko Dedic were both foiled by heroic England blocks before the ball broke to Birsa 12 yards out, and he fired wastefully wide.

Capello's team selection had already been vindicated by Milner and Defoe teaming up for what turned out to be the winner.

And it was proved even more correct when Upson produced a brilliant last-ditch block to deny Slovenia an equaliser in the dying seconds.

The misery for Slovenia was then completed at the final whistle when the news came through Landon Donovan's last-gasp winner for the United States had eliminated them from the competition.