Wayne Rooney played the full 90 minutes as he captained Derby County to a 2-1 win over Barnsley at Pride Park on Thursday evening in his much-anticipated debut.
The England national team’s all-time top goalscorer played an influential role in central midfield in Phillip Cocu’s 4-4-2 formation.
Playing alongside teenagers Jason Knight and Max Bird, Rooney provided the cross from a free kick that Jack Marriott turned home to give the Rams a 1-0 lead shortly before half-time.
Marriott had earlier missed three one-on-one’s against Barnsley goalkeeper Samuel Şahin-Radlinger, not even finding the target on two of them, before scoring only his second goal in his last 33 appearances.
Barnsley equalised five minutes into the second half when substitute Elliot Simoes turned home a rebound from close range after Ben Hamer had spilled an effort. Rooney missed a close range effort immediately after – his only effort on goal all game.
Derby’s lead was restored seven minutes later when Rooney’s raking pass across field picked out Andre Wisdom. The right-back successfully took on Clarke Oduor before cutting the ball back from the byline, which beat three defenders to setup Martyn Waghorn from close range.
Jack Marriott missed another one-on-one opportunity before Phillip Cocu’s side sat back, encouraging pressure for the final 10 minutes and the four minutes of stoppage time.
Barnsley had chances to equalise but didn’t take them as they saw their five-game unbeaten streak end in their first game of 2020.
Victory for Derby keeps them in 17th but moves them 10 points above the relegation zone. They are actually closer to the playoffs – seven points off Swansea City in 6th after Steve Cooper’s side beat Charlton Athletic 1-0 this evening.
Max Bird was named the Sky Sports man of the match after another impressive performance. He played a key role in breaking up the visitors’ possession time and time again in front of the back four.
Shout out to experienced centre-back Curtis Davies too, who made numerous clearances, whilst also getting on the end of a couple of Wayne Rooney free kicks at the other end.