JOE HART: Little did we know when we all laughed at his wayward passing in the eighth minute and collectively said “oooh, Pep will have enjoyed that”, that we would not have a single other moment of enjoyment in the opening 45 minutes. Did not have a single shot to save; dealt with every Slovakian shot with aplomb.
KYLE WALKER: That he attempted eight crosses was testament to his enthusiasm and willingness to be an attacking outlet; that he found a teammate just once shows that he a) sometimes lacks accuracy and b) was largely aiming for the absolutely rotten Harry Kane. Should have had an assist but Kane’s air shot was spectacular. There is a ridiculous Twitter row every England game between Liverpool and Tottenham fans about Clyne and Walker, but the truth is that both are decent but ultimately underwhelming full-backs.
JOHN STONES: He will be w***ed off enough elsewhere so hardly needs an inexpert hand from us. Against a side that did not test him defensively, he pretty much played as an auxiliary central midfielder and was confident and forward-thinking on the ball. Close control on the edge of the opposition box to set up Adam Lallana was a highlight. Anticipation has clearly improved under Pep Guardiola.
GARY CAHILL: As is traditional, I have not written down a single thing about Gary Cahill. An excellent pass completion rate (96.7%) suggests he was probably quite neat.
DANNY ROSE: Dawdling on the ball led to Slovakia’s best chance of the game but then some excellent defending thwarted another possible breakthrough just after the hour mark. Positive going forward and contributed to the winner by simply firing the ball back into the box at every opportunity. Will he challenge Luke Shaw to a starting place when fit? He shouldn’t.
ERIC DIER: There’s nothing like playing as a holding midfielder against an ambitionless side to make you look like a really sodding good holding midfielder. Seemed to be occupying the same space as Stones and Wayne Rooney a little too often for comfort, but that’s hardly his fault.
JORDAN HENDERSON: “Henderson…caught a little bit unawares there, Jordan Henderson.” It was ever thus. We are now 27 games into Henderson’s England career and I am yet to see him actually play well. And unfortunately, I have probably seen every single one – that’s a whole lot of aimless running and pointy pointing. One lovely run just before he was hooked threatened to be an actual positive contribution but alas, it was in vain.
WAYNE ROONEY: “Rooney with the free-kick…just a little too high.” It was ever thus.
There was an awful lot of talk in the build-up to this game of Sam Allardyce putting round pegs in round holes, but it turns out that he had simply told his roundest peg that he could pick whichever hole he fancied; he picked one just to the left of a holding midfielder in a game that didn’t need one holding midfielder, never mind two. For a few depressing moments in the first half he was the deepest England outfield player and he did not touch the ball once in the opposition penalty area in the opening 45 minutes.
What can Allardyce do? Not tell him where to play, apparently. Which is a problem created by the appointment of a manager who has achieved significantly less in the game than his captain. Like David Moyes at Manchester United, he feels a little bit too lucky to be managing such a great player. Just do what you want, Sir Wayne.
As for the actual football…balls into touch, the odd cute pass and a massive dive. He will be No. 1 in our first World Cup Ladder of the Sam Allardyce reign.
RAHEEM STERLING: There were moments – an incisive run in from the left to meet a clever Henderson ball and a lovely flick through a defender’s legs to win one of four free-kicks. But it was all a bit ‘not quite’. Not bad enough to make him a footie idiot who is a disgrace to his country, but not good enough to prompt talk of redemption.
ADAM LALLANA: Fitting that the goal – scrappy and lucky as it was – came from the boot of Lallana as he was easily England’s most exciting and innovative player in what was a pretty rotten 96 minutes. Uses both feet to create space where there appears none around the edge of the box and was unafraid to shoot, and not in a Harry ‘I’m 25 yards out and there’s a defender in front of me but I don’t really know what else to do’ Kane kind of way. Big tick.
HARRY KANE: He touched the ball once in the opening 15 minutes – not strictly his fault as he was incredibly isolated, but it was his fault that he mistimed his kick when Kyle Walker delivered the ball into his path just two yards out. After 40 minutes he finally made contact on a shot but it was of course from 25 yards out and it was straight at a defender. His greatest contribution was to get stamped on by Martin Skrtel. The mercy substitution should have come earlier.
DELE ALLI (on for Henderson, 64): Immediately made a massive difference – presumably because Allardyce dare tell him where to play and he told him to play as an actual No. 10. Mental. Injected a dynamism England had previously lacked and showed vision as well as his usual drive in setting up Theo Walcott with a sumptuous through ball. Difficult to argue against him starting England’s next game.
THEO WALCOTT (on for Sterling, 71): There was a sight of the new, combative Walcott when he won the ball back in his own half but the old Walcott soon emerged again with an awful first touch when he was put through on goal by Alli, followed by a horrendous miscue when Lallana’s shot hit the woodwork and fell into his path.
Two excellent touches and a cross whipped into exactly the right area was a reminder of the player Walcott could have been, before a run that attracted high praise from Glenn Hoddle:
“That’s the sort of movement you want…”
He was offside, Glenn.
DANIEL STURRIDGE (on for Kane, 82): Looked more dangerous in 14 minutes than Kane had for the previous 82 minutes.