How England’s players rated against Malta…

Date published: Saturday 2nd September 2017 3:40

JOE HART
Ensured the kit man will have plenty to do with a couple of wonderful dives for off-target Malta shots. Was proactive in racing off his line on two separate occasions, the second of which ended with an actually quite impressive improvised pass. Are you watching, Pep Guardiola? For your sake, let’s hope not. There are better things to do on a Friday evening.

 

KYLE WALKER
Should have played Jamie Vardy in on goal with a minute remaining, and perhaps would have done in different circumstances. In fact, his only positive delivery that comes to mind was in the opening ten minutes, when his cutback found Harry Kane who duly miscontrolled the ball. At the other end, it felt as though the Manchester City right-back relied far too much on his pace to rescue him in certain situations. In other news, the grass was also green.

 

GARY CAHILL
The Chelsea captain was appointed caretaker in Malta, clearing up one Walker mess in the first half before mopping up after a Phil Jones mistake. England do feel far less experienced in defence without the 31-year-old.

Also feigned a pass forward before turning and laying the ball off to Hart in one seamless movement in the second half. Had I tried to do the same, I’d have probably snapped both my ACLs.

 

PHIL JONES
Like a puppy with a short attention span, Jones behaved himself at first before becoming a little bored and chasing everything in sight. He stormed out of position at one point, and was then left racing back as the Malta forward turned him with ease and created a goalscoring chance. He did register the highest passing accuracy of the game, mind (96.3%), so a treat is in order.

 

RYAN BERTRAND
A first goal for England, but the sort of performance that will leave Danny Rose Googling him in confusion. The Southampton left-back’s delivery was poor even when he was afforded the time and space to consider his next move.

 

JAKE LIVERMORE
It was probably mere coincidence, but there was something fitting about it being Livermore whose pass was greeted with chants of “we’re f**ing sh*t” from the travelling England support. No shots, no chances created, no tackles, one dribble, two fouls. Tony Pulis will be damn proud.

 

JORDAN HENDERSON
In the opening half hour, England’s captain was their best player. He carved out two opportunities for Walker and Alli early on, but then became sloppy in possession in his attempts to force the issue.

Henderson and Livermore were the midfield equivalents of babysitters who presumed it would be a quiet night and so decided to watch the television and invite some friends round. They both pretty much abandoned their defensive duties throughout, which would generally be forgivable against an opponent of this calibre, but Malta managed four shots for a reason.

 

ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN
Clearly in a confident mood after his club thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at the weekend, Oxlade-Chamberlain started the game as one of England’s most positive players. His cutback for Henderson helped create a chance for Alli after ten minutes, while his pace was a huge asset down the right-hand side. The central midfield wing-back even displayed his wonderful versatility in first-half stoppage time, morphing into an alarm clock as he lulled the stadium from their deep slumber with a first shot on target since the 4th minute following a great touch.

England made 12 tackles all evening, and Oxlade-Chamberlain accounted for a quarter of them, so that’s something.

 

RAHEEM STERLING
The main victim of a presumably stern team talk from Gareth Southgate who was almost certainly ‘not angry, just disappointed’ at his uninspiring players at half-time. Not without reason either, as the Manchester City winger offered precious little in his 45 minutes. His first contribution was to waste a presentable opportunity in the first minute when he bizarrely took one too many touches despite being played through on goal by Harry Kane. If Pep Guardiola ever manages to improve his decision-making, it would rank as a higher achievement than any of the Spaniard’s Champions League winner’s medals.

 

DELE ALLI
“That was beautiful skill, wasn’t it?” noted an awestruck Glenn Hoddle in the first half as Alli flicked the ball over his head before being instantly tackled. It was very much the story of his performance before being removed in the second half: promise followed quickly by disappointment.

The outlier came soon after half-time, when it felt as though the 21-year-old had squandered yet another opportunity by keeping hold of the ball for too long, but he finally found Kane who scored. As is becoming a feature of his game, it was the one moment of excellence in a sea of frustration. Forgive the pun, but Dele’s propensity for heading down blind alleys knows no bounds; he was dispossessed on more occasions than any other player (6).

 

HARRY KANE
The Tottenham striker is clearly a fan of misquoting seminal indie classics released by Green Day in 2004, because you can wake him up when September starts. Kane has had six shots against Newcastle, eight against Chelsea and ten against Burnley without scoring for Spurs, but it was about quality, not quantity for England. Of his five efforts on Friday, one was saved excellently, another was a routine stop, a third was blocked and the other two brought his first goals of the season. With more chances created than any other player (4), this was a necessary performance to defy those silly doubters.

 

SUBSTITUTES

MARCUS RASHFORD (on for Sterling, 45)
Provided two things his teammates outright refused to offer in the first half: movement and purpose. The Manchester United forward is not perfect, but his willingness to receive the ball and actually make something happen is endearing. Some cute flicks failed, but he at least took the initiative when others wilted. In 45 minutes he completed more dribbles (8) than any other player, and only Kane created more chances than his three.

 

JAMIE VARDY (on for Alli, 70)
Of his 11 touches, two were shots, one was a tackle and five were completed passes. You rate him.

 

DANNY WELBECK (on for Oxlade-Chamberlain, 76)
He came in like a wrecking ball, chucking every inch of his gangly frame at two Kane crosses in quick succession late on. He contrived to miss the first, but his finish on the second delivery for England’s third goal was deceptively wonderful. It is nice to see him again.

 

Matt Stead

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