England 2 – 0 Malta

England laboured to an uninspiring 2-0 win over Malta at Wembley on Friday, with only a late Harry Kane goal adding gloss to an otherwise poor performance.

Gareth Southgate’s side had been hit by a series of injuries in the build-up to the European Championship Qualifier dead-rubber but this was a terrible display from a team with ambitions of winning the tournament in Germany next summer.

Qualification may have already been assured and top spot in Group C was sealed but this performance won’t have impressed anyone questioning this team’s credentials of going all the way at the Euros.

When these sides met in June, a Malta own goal eight minutes into the match had given England the platform for a commanding 4-0 away win. Incredibly Enrico Pepe repeated the gift exactly eight minutes into this contest – but any thought the floodgates would open faded as Southgate’s disjointed players struggled to create any major chances against a country ranked 171st in the world.

Trent Alexander-Arnold had his side’s first shot 39 minutes into the game. He was then the first to hit the target on 64 minutes. The near-capacity crowd, arriving at Wembley in expectation of a big win, were starved of excitement until subs Kyle Walker and Bukayo Saka linked up with the standout Phil Foden and Kane to double the advantage 15 minutes from time.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sky Sports News’ Rob Dorsett and football journalist Peter Smith reflect on England’s unconvincing 2-0 victory over Malta in Euro 2024 qualifying.

There was an incredulous decision to book Kane for diving when he was brought down by Malta goalkeeper Henry Bonello in the first half and the England captain was spotted to be in an offside position by VAR when Declan Rice lashed in what would have been a third. But rather than injustice, it will be England’s inability to dominate their opponents which will concern Southgate.

He takes his side to North Macedonia on Monday aiming to sign off this campaign by wrapping up an almost-certain place in Pot 1 for the Euro 2024 draw, which takes place on December 2. He will also hope for a more encouraging performance than this disappointing effort.

How England got over the line against Malta

England player ratings

England: Pickford (6), Tomori (5), Maguire (5), Guehi (6), Trippier (6), Alexander-Arnold (7), Gallagher (5), Henderson (6), Foden (7), Rashford (6), Kane (7).

Subs:Saka (7), Walker (7), Rice (6), Palmer (6).

Player of the match: Phil Foden

There was a buzz among England supporters ahead of the game, arriving in hope of seeing a Friday night goal-fest. By the end of the match they were booing the fourth official for adding six more minutes on.

Team news

  • Fikayo Tomori started at left-back in a back four, which saw Marc Guehi partner Harry Maguire at centre-back. Trent Alexander-Arnold began in midfield alongside Conor Gallagher and Jordan Henderson, with Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford on the flanks of the attack, either side of captain Harry Kane.

It could have been a lot worse, had Teddy Teuma’s drive fizzed inside the post rather than just past it 29 seconds in after Conor Gallagher gave the ball away. It was shades of San Marino’s Davide Gualtieri in 1993.

Bobby Charlton remembered

There was a touching tribute to Sir Bobby Charlton before kick-off, with the England World Cup winner’s highlights on the international stage shown on the big screen before a minute’s applause for a player who won 106 caps for his country.

Pepe’s own goal from Foden’s cutback quietened any suggestion of a shock – but hardly sparked England into life. It was a forgettable first-half from the hosts.

Harry Maguire’s poor pass out allowed Paul Mbong to have a go from distance and England still hadn’t had a clear-cut shot when Kane was denied a blatant penalty and booked for simulation when he was caught by goalkeeper Bonello.

Harry Kane was booked for diving against Malta
Harry Kane was booked for diving against Malta

A tame Maguire header from a corner was recorded as an England shot on 25 minutes but the Three Lions’ first real shot in anger didn’t arrive until six minutes before the break – and Alexander-Arnold blazed it way over the bar. It summed up England’s performance. Miles off it.

Walker and Saka were sent on at half-time and would later combine for England’s second – but the initial improvement from Southgate’s rearranged side was marginal.

Harry Kane and Phil Foden celebrate after England took the lead against Malta through an own goal
Harry Kane and Phil Foden celebrate after England took the lead against Malta through an own goal

Rashford – disconnected in the first-half – produced some threatening individual moments but his lack of sharpness was apparent and when he crashed painfully into Alexander-Arnold it epitomised England’s lack of cohesion. He was forced off because of the blow, with Cole Palmer making his debut in his place; Jordan Henderson was booed off.

Alexander-Arnold finally landed the match’s first shot on target on 64 minutes but Kane found the net soon after when England finally showed the passing quality they usually display in the final third.

Harry Kane scored England's second against Malta at Wembley
Harry Kane scored England’s second against Malta at Wembley

It looked like the wheels were coming off for Malta when Rice fired in another shortly after the re-start but VAR rightly called offside, with the ball perhaps catching Kane on the way through, and they regathered themselves to get to the final whistle with a commendable result and performance. Their hosts will reflect on the game very differently.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Despite an unconvincing 2-0 win over Malta, Bukayo Saka is pleased that England moved ever closer to securing one of the top seeds at Euro 2024.

Southgate: I won’t hammer the players

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

England manager Gareth Southgate discusses his side’s performance against Malta in the Euro Qualifiers and why his players seemed to be below their usual level.

England boss Gareth Southgate to Channel 4:

“It was a game where we didn’t start well. I’ve been in football a long time – if you don’t start well, it’s hard to pick the game up.

“We got a goal out of nothing, but the quality on the ball is not normally at that level and I think it was just one of those days where the boys knew they could win at a canter and we didn’t really extend ourselves as we normally would.

“They have played so many matches and have done such a brilliant job that I’m not going to hammer them for that.

“In the second half we could have scored more. We obviously didn’t create as many chances as we wanted to.”

England talking points: Alexander-Arnold warms to midfield role

Trent Alexander-Arnold has an effort on target
Trent Alexander-Arnold has an effort on target

Sky Sports’ Ben Grounds:

Something didn’t quite feel right in the first half at Wembley. Jordan Henderson and Conor Gallagher playing either side of quarter-back Trent Alexander-Arnold wasn’t easy on the eye.

From inside 29 seconds, when Gallagher was dispossessed and led to an early chance for Teddy Teuma, the profile was too similar and yet unfamiliar.

It was only in the second half where Alexander-Arnold’s range of passing truly came to the fore. He was involved in the build-up to Harry Kane’s clincher and was also part of the move which led to Declan Rice’s rasping effort that was disallowed.

His own finishing was off, but he never shied away from looking to make things happen in his new role.

“Southgate said on Alexander-Arnold’s performance: “I thought he used the ball really well. He has some outstanding quality, him and Phil in the first half were the two that really looked like opening the game up for us.

“I thought Marc Guehi was [also] very good at the back – he’s got another game under his belt and looked very, very calm. And then the changes brought some quality as well.

“In the second half we could have scored more. We obviously didn’t create as many chances as we wanted to.”

What’s next?

England’s final Euro 2024 Qualifier is away to North Macedonia on Monday – kick-off 7.45pm.


Denial of responsibility! Elite News is an automatic aggregator of Global media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, and all materials to their authors. For any complaint, please reach us at – [email protected]. We will take necessary action within 24 hours.
DMCA compliant image

Leave a comment