While England may not do well at major international tournaments, they continued their good form in the qualifiers with a routine 2-0 win over a poor Malta side at Wembley on Saturday in their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Goals from Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli gave the Three Lions all three points and caretaker manager Gareth Southgate a win in his first game but the performance was far from convincing.
Malta, ranked 176 in the FIFA rankings (164 positions behind England), played with 10 men behind the ball and they camped in the final third. They had just a lone striker who barely received any service and was stationed near the centre circle for most parts of the game. And they did not have a shot on goal until the 81st minute.
Here are the ratings for England.
Joe Hart – 7/10
In truth, the English goalkeeper did nothing but swat flies for the majority of the game. Malta had absolutely no interest in making a game of it and the Hart highlights package will probably show him making one rather textbook save late in the game.
Kyle Walker – 6/10
The Tottenham Hotspur right-back did well on the right flank and spent more time in the attacking half. While he was an extra outlet on the right in attack, he failed to deliver decent crosses into the box and even his final ball was found wanting.
Gary Cahill – 7/10
This was the perfect game for Cahill to take his mind off his problems in the Chelsea back-line and he was hardly troubled at the back. England saw 80% of the possession and Cahill did not have much to do.
John Stones – 7/10
The most expensive defender in the Premier League will happily accept the clean sheet thanks to Malta’s toothless attack. Won four aerial duels and had a pass success rate of 96% – a level head at the back who was practically playing a practice game in a World Cup qualifier.
Ryan Bertrand – 6/10
Before the game, Bertrand wasn’t supposed to start. But Danny Rose had a tight hamstring and Bertrand replaced him in the starting lineup. However, he hobbled off with less than a quarter of the game played, forcing Rose to eventually play a part. But there were no complaints based on the 19 minutes he did play.
Jordan Henderson – 8/10
Playing in the base of England’s midfield, the Liverpool captain bossed the midfield and made the right runs into the final third. His passes were also crisp and looked to combine with his teammates whenever he could. Duly rewarded with an assist for his sublime cross to Sturridge from a slightly deep position and also played a part in the second.
Wayne Rooney – 6/10
The English skipper was deployed in midfield yet again and, unlike under Allardyce who asked him to play wherever he felt fit, he was confined to the midfield third. However, sideways passes under barely any pressure against a poor Malta side is not what is expected from the Manchester United forward and he could have done better with his set-pieces too.
He did, however, force Hogg into a couple of saves. He was also lucky to escape a yellow card for a nasty lunging tackle in the first half although he did get the ball first.
Dele Alli – 8/10
The Spurs midfielder could have ideally scored more than one goal if not for his mistimed attempts. He made the right runs into the box to get on the end of passes and fought for his goal when it looked like he had lost the opportunity to score. England badly need a no.10 for the future and the 20-year-old could fit the bill.
Jesse Lingard – 7/10
Lingard was effective in the first half and looked to link up with his teammates often. The young Red Devil almost got his name on the scoresheet too but saw his header saved by the impressive Andrew Hogg in goal.
Theo Walcott – 6/10
Returning to the England side after some inspiring performances with Arsenal this season, Walcott was effectively negated by Malta’s defence who sat deep. Without space to run into, the English forward struggled to make an impact and was substituted without making any key contributions.
Daniel Sturridge – 7/10
The Liverpool striker was the only English player apart from Alli who was able to do anything effective in a crowded final third. He scored the opening goal with an impressive header from range that was directed to the far corner but was also guilty of flashing an easier effort on goal wide.
Danny Rose – 6/10
Coming on for the injured Bertrand, the Spurs full-back was hardly troubled – just like the rest of the English defence.
Marcus Rashford – 6/10
The young United forward came on for Walcott when fans would have liked to see his introduction much earlier. However, he did not even have a shot on goal.
Jamie Vardy – N/A
The Leicester City striker came on in the final 15 minutes but hardly made his presence felt and should have been given more time to stamp his mark on the game.