England 1-0 Slovenia: The player ratings

Date published: Friday 6th October 2017 12:25

JOE HART: Lucky man. He took a risk by diving at the feet of Josip Ilicic and it did not pay off. Actually, strike that, it bloody did pay off because the referee failed to spot the pretty obvious penalty and the danger was thwarted. So he got it absolutely right. Would Jack Butland have pulled that off? Would Jack Butland have done that bizarre ball-juggling thing with an easy save? Clean sheet in your face, Jack Butland.

(Joe Hart then did something really good near the end. Man of the Match.)

 

KYLE WALKER: Just when you are wondering what on earth you are going to write about Kyle Walker, he takes a free-kick from 25 yards. Kyle Walker has not scored a goal in two years so said free-kick was shit.

Nice of him to then throw in a bit of nostalgia just before the hour mark, with a nonchalant brainfrade of a cushioned pass right into the feet of Ilisic. That seemed to shake him because his next half-hour was nothing short of rotten. But then that interception, that drive, that cross and he pretty much won England the match. Sod it, let’s give him an award too.

 

JOHN STONES: Saw an awful lot of the ball, but that is not necessarily a good thing when your out ball is Jordan Henderson rather than Kevin De Bruyne or David Silva. At one point, he clearly got frustrated with the midfield’s lack of movement so burst forward himself, only to lose control of the ball and get himself booked.

Defensively, he was guilty of ball-watching when Slovenia had their first chance and was caught under the ball more than once because the distance between him and Gary Cahill suggested one of them might have a body odour problem. Perhaps that’s what Joe Hart was pointing out when Stones quite clearly told him to “f*** off”.

 

GARY CAHILL: No notes. Obviously. As the man in charge of that defence, we do hold him partly culpable for every time England looked terribly confused, which happened many, many times more than it ever should against Slovenia. He did earn us some respite when he kicked his own goalkeeper in the head and won a free-kick. So well done that man.

 

RYAN BERTRAND: Did an excellent job in the most important task of the first half – giving the ball to Marcus Rashford. But two flaws were exposed – his one-footedness leading to too many long passes back to his goalkeeper (booooooo), and his tendency to get caught too far up the pitch when the opposition break. To be honest, I am struggling to get on board with the notion that Bertrand is England’s first-choice left-back; it does not sit comfortably.

 

ERIC DIER: Even against poor teams, the over-riding thought is that he will get exposed against good ones. He is not a dominant central midfielder, not a quick-thinking central midfielder, not a visionary midfielder, not a combative central midfielder; he is merely a central midfielder, largely standing in the right place, as long as the right place is just ahead of the two centre-halves.

 

JORDAN HENDERSON: There are moments – largely when he doesn’t think – when he can look like a proper footballer, with a quick one-two, a first-time cross or a snap shot. But then he is given time or space to think and you can almost hear the cogs whirring from your living room.

While somebody like David Silva’s head swivels and it takes a micro-second for him to assess all the options and choose the best one, Henderson’s thought process takes about three seconds, features a bizarre little stuttering run and then by the time he has made a decision, the options have all gone and he has to either start the process again or pass the ball back to his goalkeeper.

No John Stones, England cannot play like Manchester City.

 

ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN: Touched the ball 32 times but we are not entirely sure he was ever once in full control of said ball. How odd that a man not playing for his club (apart from the occasional few minutes when he has been playing badly for his club) would struggle when playing for England? When Jesse Lingard comes on and does more in his first 6.3 minutes than you manage in 63 minutes, you know you have had a bad night.

 

RAHEEM STERLING: Had England been playing against a side with more ambition who allowed more space both in behind and between the lines, then Sterling might have worked as a No. 10. As it was, he was forced further and further back into midfield, where his skill set was wasted. When England did break quickly, he was effective – playing the ball into Marcus Rashford for a chance he should have taken and then getting in the box for a shot that inspired some incredible defending.

But he lost the ball too often, made the wrong decision too often and generally never looked at real ease. Dele Alli has also struggled in that role of late, so do we need to re-think the shape if we do not have a No. 10? We miss Adam Lallana and his lovely feet.

 

MARCUS RASHFORD: Effervescent. He just has this wonderful desire to go forward, whether it is around, through, over or under the full-back. For the opening half-hour, he was mesmerising, almost making this awful game watchable. There are flaws – his final ball hit the first man too many times to be classed as unfortunate, and he took the wrong decision when a rare England counter-attack left him with only the keeper to beat – but he is so very young that he gets a free pass for now. Just don’t hit it into the full-back’s legs, Marcus.

 

HARRY KANE: “He hasn’t touched the ball…if he had, he would have scored.” Then Harry Kane finally touched the ball and hit a ridiculous shot from 25 yards, having got frustrated that the ball was so very rarely reaching him. He is in the kind of form that makes it difficult to begrudge him his prolific shooting but it’s not sacrilege to wish that he occasionally looked for options before trying to make space for yet another shot. It was far from a great night for the England captain until the second he scored, proving once again that he is the consummate goalscorer and gentleman. Oh Harry, what would we do without you?

 

SUBSTITUTES

JESSE LINGARD (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 63): Coming on as an attacking substitute when the game has gone slow and stale is an excellent gig – movement, movement, movement. His enthusiasm seemed to rub off on the other players, who seemed to suddenly remember that yes, you were allowed to run.

 

MICHAEL KEANE (on for Sterling, 85): Touched the ball four times, apparently. Can’t fault any of them.

 

Sarah Winterburn

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