A game like this is always going to be measured by the score line, but England’s 2-0 win over Malta isn’t exactly a true reflection on the events of the night.
With a new man at the helm in Gareth Southgate, England simply ran riot at Wembley only to be confronted by a goalkeeper on top of his game. It surely has to be the performance of a lifetime.
With Harry Kane injured and Wayne Rooney starting in a deeper role, it was a night when a new-look England front line had the chance to impress. Their movement off the ball and quick passing saw them ease past a feeble Maltese defence time and time again.
But Andrew Hogg, a man born in Kingston-upon- Thames but representing the miniscule Mediterranean island nation of Malta, was not going down without a fight. A string of fine saves meant Southgate’s men were unable to make it a rout, although the statistics would say otherwise.Embed from Getty Images
20 shots, 10 on target and 80 per-cent possession. 2-0 is a score line that is simply flabbergasting.
It took England just short of half an hour to finally get the ball past Hogg, as Jordan Henderson beautiful delivery was met by Liverpool striker Daniel Sturridge, who planted his header in to the far bottom corner to score his 100th career goal.
Then like London busses, England second was right around the corner as Dele Alli poked home a rebound after Hogg had denied him at the first time of asking. Many had questioned the selection of Daniel Sturridge over the in-form Marcus Rashford, but after netting the first it was his fancy footwork that set Alli through on goal.Embed from Getty Images
Hogg’s opposite number had a rather relaxed night, and was probably starting to wonder if the flight from Turin-Caselle Airport was worth it. But in the 80 th minute, Joe Hart was forced to palm Andrei Agius’ volley out for their first corner of the night.
After Roy Hodgson’s time in the England dugout, which saw them secure 10 wins out of 10 qualifiers to get to Euro 2016, Southgate was expected to follow suit against a nation populated by just 423,000 people. Their clean sheet meant England hadn’t conceded in their last five qualifiers, and were unbeaten in their last 30.
Before the game, the former Middlesbrough manager called for his side to “take risks” and “be brave” in his first game in charge, and I doubt he’s come away disappointed. England out-passed Malta by 832 to 160, and Hart’s sole save meant the 81,781-strong Wembley crowd were hardly apprehensive.
Next up England travel to Ljubljana to face Slovenia in a game that will mark the halfway point of Southgate’s interim appointment. England have ticked a box against Malta, but Jan Oblak and co. will prove a much tougher test on Tuesday night.