It took a Wayne Rooney free-kick for England to sneak victory against 10-man Estonia - a moment of quality which led Gary Cahill to praise his game-changing captain.
This European Championship qualifier in Tallinn was never going to be as easy as Thursday’s cakewalk against San Marino, although few expected the Baltic nation to prove so hard to break down.
Estonia produced a defensive display which belied their place 81st in the world rankings, even when captain Ragnar Klavan was sent off early in the second half.
England bossed possession and the shot count, although the breakthrough did not come until the 74th minute when Rooney struck a free-kick from the edge of the box.
It moved the Three Lions skipper to within six goals off all-time leading goalscorer Sir Bobby Charlton’s haul of 49 and just one off third-placed Jimmy Greaves, while extending England’s winning start to Group E to a third match.
“Another goal, another step closer for Wayne to the record,” Dronfield-born Cahill said after the match.
“I think in tight games like that when things aren’t always going that great in front of goal, sometimes you need that added bit of quality, bit of class. Wayne brought that with a free-kick, a fantastic free-kick which got the three points for us.”
It was Rooney’s second goal in the space of a week but, like the San Marino match, he should have scored more.
The 28-year-old had six of the Three Lions’ 12 attempts at the A. Le Coq Arena, where England’s performance may not have been the best but was enough for another three points.
“It was job done today,” Cahill said. “We dominated the game, maybe got a little bit frustrated in the second half as we were eager to get the first goal.
“On another day, we could have got a lot more goals, maybe been a little bit more ruthless in front of goal. But nevertheless we created a lot of chances and are pleased with the win.
“Credit to them, you know. They worked hard, especially in the first half to close us down.
“It is always difficult when a team gets behind the ball and gets compact. It is hard to break them down.
“But today I thought we did break them down, maybe just that final little finish was lacking.
“You have games like that and it is important we stay concentrated, not get too frustrated and we finally managed to get the goal, which has obviously determined the result.”
Cahill was pleased with the way England managed to maintain their focus in this week’s matches against inferior opposition, especially as it extended their run of clean sheets to a fifth match.
“At any stage you could have a free-kick, set piece or individual mistake,” the Chelsea centre-back said.
“That’s the thing with only being 1-0 up. That can always happen so it is important the back four and the goalkeeper are concentrated. We had a job this week to win two games and we have done so, so overall we are very pleased.”