The Gareth Southgate era began for England in what turned out to be a comfortable win for England.
Though the home side were camped out in the Maltese half, it took half an hour for the opposition’s defence to be breached as Daniel Sturridge headed home a cross from his Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson.
The Three Lions made it two courtesy of Dele Alli nine minutes later, but the expected flurry of England goals thereafter never materialised, and despite Southgate’s side having a number of chances to completely kill off the tie, it remained 2-0.
It was an easy win for England, perhaps too easy at times. They can certainly expect a tougher game against Slovenia on Tuesday.
Some players impressed more than others, and while the interim manager sprung a few surprises with his team selection, one or two of his choices justified the boss’s faith in them.
England Player Ratings:
Joe Hart – 6.5: Might as well have stayed in Turin, he had that little to do. Gets an extra half-point for not being asleep to save Andre Agius’ shot late on.
Kyle Walker – 6: Lively as always, but Walker’s crossing was wayward. Most of England’s play ended up going down the left because Walker and Walcott on the right were just not at their best.
Gary Cahill – 6.5: Based on club form Chris Smalling probably should have started – but where Cahill has been horrendous for Chelsea recently he didn’t put a foot wrong here this evening.
John Stones – 6.5: Had little to do in defence, but did link up well with the midfield at times and (like Cahill) was strong in the air.
Ryan Bertrand – 5: Lasted less than 20 minutes before pulling up with a hamstring injury. Still had more touches than Joe Hart.
Jordan Henderson – 8.5: Rooney should take notes, this is what a masterful midfield performance looks like. Great cross for Sturridge’s header, and ran the show creatively in midfield for his country.
Wayne Rooney – 5.5: The shoehorning continues. Rooney was used in a deeper midfield role this evening, and even that didn’t go right for him. His insistence on Hollywood balls is ridiculous, and he could have been sent off for an awful tackle in the first half.
Dele Alli – 8.5: Alli is the best number ten England have and that’s all there is to it. Lively, physical, but still a bit raw, the 20-year-old is growing into this role and will excel in it for years to come.
Theo Walcott – 5.5: Definitely earned his start through his Arsenal form, but he struggled to replicate that for his country as nothing really came off for him. The game simply passed Walcott by.
Jesse Lingard – 7.5: A surprise starter, but Lingard justified his selection on the wing. Linked up very well with Rose behind him, created a number of chances and looked far, far more intelligent and threatening than Walcott on the opposite side.
Daniel Sturridge – 6.5: Missed a good chance before he scored a well-placed header. Drifted a bit too often and didn’t really carry out his role as England’s focal point in attack.
Danny Rose (Bertrand 19) – 7: Made more of an impact than his team-mate Walker down the opposite flank. Worked well with Lingard and Alli.
Marcus Rashford (Walcott 68) – 6: Rashford is threatening and unpredictable by his vary presence, and though he didn’t have a massive impact in this evening’s game, he nearly recorded an assist for Alli.
Jamie Vardy (Sturridge 73) – 5.5: On for a similar length of time as Bertrand but had less touches. Minimal impact.
Read More About: Daniel Sturridge, dele alli, England, gareth southgate, gary cahill, jamie vardy, Jesse Lingard, joehart, john stones, jordan henderson, kyle walker, malta, marcus rashford, Ryan Bertrand, theo walcott, Wayne Rooney, world cup 2018