Wayne Rooney saluted Andros Townsend after the Tottenham winger made a memorable England debut in his country's crucial 4-1 win over Montenegro at Wembley.Townsend was surprisingly handed his first England cap by Roy Hodgson in the must-win Group H tie and the 22-year-old repaid his manager's faith with a scintillating display on Friday.
Rooney bagged his sixth goal in five World Cup qualifiers early in the second half when Townsend's surging run and cross allowed the Manchester United striker to open the scoring after Danny Welbeck's shot was saved.
England briefly led 2-0 through a Branko Boskovic own goal, but nerves were jangling when Dejan Damjanovic pulled one back for Montenegro.
With England's World Cup hopes in danger following news of Ukraine's win over Poland -- a result that would have left Hodgson's men in second place if they failed to beat Montenegro -- Townsend rode to the rescue with a stunning strike before a late Daniel Sturridge penalty put further gloss on a memorable night for England, who now just need a win at home to Poland on Tuesday to book their place at next year's finals in Brazil.
And Rooney, whose strike was his 37th England goal, admitted he had been extremely impressed with the way Townsend refused to be intimidated by his shock call-up.
"It was some debut," he said. "In such a high-pressure game to perform like that was incredible."
Townsend's dream debut is the latest step in his long journey to the top of the game.
During four years at Tottenham, he has been loaned out to more clubs than he has made Premier League starts, with spells learning his trade far from the bright lights of Wembley at Yeovil, Leyton Orient, Milton Keynes Dons, Ipswich, Watford, Millwall, Leeds and Birmingham.
It was during another loan stint at QPR last season that he finally proved he could thrive in the top-flight and Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas was impressed enough to hand him a place in the starting line-up this season.
His refreshing lack of fear, so often a problem for England at Wembley, shone through as he took the attack to Montenegro and Rooney acknowledged it was thrilling to be being part of an attacking quartet with Townsend, Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck.
Hodgson is often derided as an ultra-conservative manager, but he cut loose against Montenegro and his gamble paid off.
"It was great," Rooney said. "It was exciting. A lot of speed and the experience of Steve (Gerrard) and Frank (Lampard) behind us.
"The manager gave us the freedom and the platform to go out and express ourselves."
While the final score suggests a rout, England were made to work hard by Montenegro in the first half.
Rooney said his side knew they might have to wait to take their opportunity against Montenegro, a well-drilled and cautious outfit who had drawn their previous three meetings with England.
"It was a tough game," Rooney said. "I thought it was always a night when we were going to have to be patient and try to break them down.
"First half they defended deep, defended well. Getting the goal so early on in the second half was vital and I thought we fully deserved the three points.
"You saw a weight come off everyone's shoulders and we played some good stuff, created chances."
Meanwhile, England captain Steven Gerrard paid tribute to Hodgson for keeping a cool head after recent criticism of the team's perceived negative ply.
"The players and manager took a bit of criticism after the 0-0 draw in Ukraine and I thought his selection was very bold here," Gerrard said.
"He went for three forwards and an out-and-out winger, and it paid off. Well done to him for his bravery."