For a long time it had looked as though England might rack up one of their least distinguished results of the Roy Hodgson era. Estonia had been reduced to 10 men early in the second half yet Hodgson’s men had to toil away for another 25 minutes before the goal, direct from Wayne Rooney’s free-kick, that soothed their mood and maintained their immaculate start to this qualifying programme.
There was no doubt they fully deserved the win but it still felt suspiciously like a reality check after the brief surge of new confidence that had accompanied beating Switzerland in their opening game of Group E. Estonia are 81st in Fifa’s world rankings, sandwiched by Saudi Arabia and Antigua and Barbuda, and do not be misled by the statistic that has been churned out over the last few days. They may have lost only one of their previous nine home matches but the opposition on that run included Azerbaijan, Gibraltar and Tajikistan. England were facing moderate opponents and this was a stodgy way of showing the gulf in quality.