England recorded a 2-0 victory over minnows Malta on Wembley on Saturday evening to top the World Cup 2018 qualification Group F. Daniel Sturridge gave England the lead with a superb first-half header and Dele Alli added the second just before the break. England had 80% possession and 20 shots, 10 of which were on target. Jordan Henderson of Liverpool was named man of the match with a commanding midfield performance. This victory means Gareth Southgate got his first three points as an interim manager and is now looking forward to visiting Slovenia on Tuesday in the third round of qualifications.
Gareth Southgate wanted England to be brave and wanted to see the team released from the shackles. Brave they were, but this was Malta, and we’ll have to wait for some higher-profile opponents to make any conclusions about Southgate lifting the team.
The disappointing second half showed just how much work there is to be done. Although it was Malta on the other end, England were far from impressive and failed to add to the score despite Rose, Rashford and Vardy coming on.
England played in a 4-1-2-3 formation that might as well be described as 4-1-5. Here is the lineup along with our player ratings:
Hart 6 – Walker 6, Cahill 6, Stones 6, Bertrand 5.5 (Rose 6) – Henderson 7 – Rooney 6, Alli 6.5 – Walcott 5.5 (Rashford 6), Sturridge 6.5 (Vardy 5.5), Lingard 6.5. Manager Gareth Southgate 6.5. Man of the match: Jordan Henderson 7
Jesse Lingard looked particularly lively on the left wing and although he lacked clinical finishing, he showed he can be counted on in the future. Dele Alli is as close to a number 10 England can get. He wasn’t perfect but he did own the position and is looking to retain it for many years. Wayne Rooney played in a very deep role, sometimes the deepest among all midfielders, and sprayed long passes and ran in to make some long shots occasionally. Not enough, the player is wasted there, and didn’t do enough to silence his critics. It looks like this is the beginning of an end for the England forward who will turn 31 in two weeks.
England play in Slovenia on Tuesday 11 October at 19.45 BST.