The England national team kept a stiff upper limit marching to victory following the firing of Sam Allardyce.
New manager Gareth Southgate’s England went top of Group F with a modest 2-0 victory over minnows Malta thanks to the above goal from striker Daniel Sturridge and no. 10 Dele Alli. The Spurs man impressed again & said:
“Yeah definitely ( whether he should have got a hat-trick) I like to get in the box and get goals and assists and I can’t complain the chances were there, maybe I need to be more clinical…He’s (Gareth Southgate) a fantastic manager and I’ve worked with him before…A solid performance from the boys.”
Wayne Rooney started in midfield alongside Jordan Henderson – groans of ‘Give Over’ from England fans mirrored the Malta shirt sponsors – yet England’s main man showed again why he always commands the headlines.
After a near disastrous early loss of the ball that had England fans having nightmares of Davide Gualteri’s goal for San Marino against David Seaman in 1993, Rooney took control of the ball and game.
Allowed the freedom of Wembley and unpressed – something that better teams – (see Iceland at The Euros) will do, Rooney was able to strut his passing stuff and spray Hollywood balls to his wingers and roving full-backs.
Fantastic interchanging passes and movement from Alli, Jesse Lingard on his debut and Daniel Sturridge in particular caused problems and Malta keeper Andrew Hogg was the game’s Man of the Match, and said:
“England impressed me more (than Scotland) That (Scotland result) was unfair and we’re underestimated, we can play”
A string of impressive saves from Hogg, from Rooney’s rasping drive from distance in the 8th minute and each of Sturridge, Dele Alli and Walcott kept England at bay and the scoreline down.
There was nothing he could do in the 29th minute for the opener from The Three Lions, whose domination and possession was made to count when Sturridge superbly headed in Liverpool team-mate Henderson’s cross.
The lead was soon doubled in the 37th minute by Dele Alli at the second attempt following incisive approach work again from Henderson:
2-0 at half-time was a fair reflection of the first half with Malta’s ‘Mannequins’ (Lee Dixon, ITV) limited in ambition.
With the game and points effectively in the bag at 2-0, the Three Lions were largely underwhelming yet saw out the game in slick enough fashion.
If anything, England should have extended their lead through Sturridge, Walcott or Dele Alli who each had good chances yet England’s 4 goals from their last 87 shots demonstrates where they collectively need to improve.
A string of set-pieces from Wayne Rooney, corners and free-kicks from the left side, were not made to count although one arcing cross-cum-shot was very well-saved by Hogg.
At the other end, fortunately for Joe Hart following his disastrous Euros, the Torino goalkeeper was limited to one late save, a near-post stop in the 71st minute.
Substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy injected some pace and urgency in the final 20 minutes for the home side while ex-Barnsley striker Michael Mufsid replaced Alfred Effiong to little effect for the away team.
England manager Gareth Southgate said:
“First half we played well, we could and should have more goals but the ‘keeper made some good saves…There’s always room to improve but subconsciously, players know the game is won so while we could have made it more comfortable for ourselves, the next game comes quickly”
England travel to Slovenia for their 3rd World Cup qualification game in Group F on Tuesday, hopefully this time with the same manager intact.
Hart – 7 – One good stop in a very quiet 90 minutes for the England rearguard.
Walker – 8 – Constantly driving forwards and snuffed out threat at the back.
Bertrand – 6 – Early injury meant early bath
(Sub – Rose 19 – 8 – Provided real cutting edge down the left in attack)
Cahill 8 – Important second half block and tackle when needed
Stones – 8 – Made inroads into the Malta half and looked to get on the ball.
Henderson – 9 – All-round midfield display and great crossing including assist for opener.
Rooney – 7 – Sprayed Hollywood balls, dangerous set-pieces and kept England ticking.
Walcott – 6 – A menace at times yet needs to be more effective.
(Sub Rashford 68 – 8 – Took the game to Malta and revived England penetration)
Lingard – 8 – Excellent movement and touches throughout, an intelligent display on full debut.
Sturridge – 7 – Well-taken first goal yet could have extended Three Lions lead
(Sub Vardy 73 – 7 -Harried tired defence yet not enough time to make an impact)
Alli – 8 – Threatening throughout, good goal yet should have had at least 2 if not 3.