Donetsk, Ukraine – Wayne Rooney made a triumphant return to the England team on Tuesday, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 defeat of Ukraine to power the Three Lions into the quarterfinals as Group D winners.
The Manchester United star missed the first two matches of the Euro 2012 group stage through suspension, but his header in the 48th minute lifted England to seven points to top the group and punch its ticket to the knockout round. France will join the English in the quarterfinals despite falling to Sweden, 2-0, in the other Group D encounter.
Rooney had the best scoring chance of the opening period but failed to convert from close range. A ball to the back post late in the first half found the 26- year-old, but he placed his open header well wide of the net.
He made amends three minutes into the second half by giving England the lead. A cross from Steven Gerrard took two deflections on its way past Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and Rooney made no mistake this time, heading the ball into the empty net from inside the six-yard box.
Controversy struck at the hour mark as Ukraine nearly got on level terms. Artem Milevskiy drew Joe Hart out of position and sent his effort toward goal, but John Terry tracked back to clear the bouncing ball off the line. The majority of the ball was over the line, though multiple replays could not confirm whether or not the entire ball crossed.
Yevhen Konoplyanka came close to leveling the score in the 73rd minute when he unleashed a shot from outside the box. The swerve and dip on the shot troubled Hart, but the England 'keeper was able to get a palm to it before Joleon Lescott quickly cleared it to safety.
England avoided further scares, holding on to claim all three points clinch top spot in Group D.
Ukraine crashes out of the tournament after the co-hosts got off to a bright start with a 2-1 win over Sweden. They finish third in the group with three points.
England returns to action on Sunday when it takes on Group C runners-up Italy at the Olympic Stadium.