By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Daniel Sturridge heads home Jordan Henderson’s cross to make it 1-0 after 31 minutes
- Dele Alli pokes the ball in to double England’s advantage six minutes later
- England control the game with 80% possession
WEMBLEY, ENGLAND – First-half goals from Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli guided England to a comfortable 2-0 win over Malta in World Cup Qualifying Group F.
Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli scored as England produced a mature performance to beat Malta 2-0 in their second World Cup qualifier in Group F.
In Gareth Southgate’s first game in charge, The Three Lions had to work hard for their chances against a stubborn visiting side that had been set up to defend deep and stifle their attacking threat.
Sturridge broke the initial deadlock after 31 minutes when he met Jordan Henderson’s excellent cross superbly and guided an accurate header into the bottom right corner.
Six minutes later, it was Alli’s turn. The impressive Henderson surged into the box and fed the Tottenham midfielder, who poked the ball home at the second attempt after his first shot was saved.
After creating more than ten chances in the first half, England’s standards dropped in the second period and they only fashioned about half as many.
The best fell to Alli, who blazed the ball over the bar as he ran to meet it at full tilt. In another opening, Theo Walcott was denied by a very good save from Malta keeper Andrew Hogg.
Hogg, who kept superbly throughout, also twice denied Rooney when he hit curling shots from outside the box. Despite those efforts, the England skipper was quiet otherwise and his place for Tuesday’s match may be in doubt with Eric Dier also in the squad.
By contrast, Rooney’s defensive midfield partner Henderson ran the game, controlling the tempo with his calmness on the ball and intelligent passing. The Liverpool captain’s efforts contributed heavily to the 80% possession England enjoyed in the game.
In other positives, Alli was lively throughout and, despite missing chances to score more goals, looks natural in the number ten role at international level. And Jesse Lingard played well on debut too, running well and linking effectively with his teammates.
This was an easy game for England, who have a perfect record after two games with six points gained and no goals conceded. They had twenty shots and almost all the possession, and they were never troubled by Malta.
But their failure to take more of their chances will worry Southgate slightly. Against the best teams in the world, sometimes you have to take all your opportunities to win or even draw.
They will probably get fewer chances on Tuesday night in Slovenia too, so maybe shooting and one-on-ones practice needs to be on the agenda ahead of that match.
England’s match against Slovenia starts at 7.45pm UK time on Tuesday 11th October.
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