Rating England’s players in ridiculous 5-3 win

Date published: Tuesday 10th September 2019 9:48

JORDAN PICKFORD: Definitely the best goalkeeper on the pitch. And yet he was beaten three times from three shots on target, which makes it sound like he had a complete nightmare and a goalkeeping inquest should ensue. In truth, he will only really be kicking himself for the penalty; he got his hands to a spot-kick that was not struck into the corner.


TRENT ALEXANDER-ARNOLD: In the first half, there was little sign of the buccaneering full-back that has started Liverpool’s season as their creative catalyst. Instead he seemed to play slightly within himself and for this we have two possible explanations – firstly, that having the touchline-hugging Jadon Sancho ahead of him literally limited his space, and secondly, that the much-publicised competition between English right-backs led to him playing it safe. It was noticeable that the early moments of the second half saw him further up the pitch when Sterling switched to the right and left him more space. Defensively okay, in the sense that none of the mess was really his fault.


MICHAEL KEANE: After we wrote after the win over Bulgaria that Keane had settled into the Gary Cahill role of being the player for whom you have no notes (good or bad) after 85 minutes, the Everton man decided to make an early mark. He f***ed it. After just 34 seconds. We would say that we miss John Stones but he might well have f***ed it even sooner. Have we sneakily become weak at centre-half again? Anyway, he at least partially atoned for his mistake with the header to set up the equaliser.


HARRY MAGUIRE: After 53 minutes he looked like a contender for the dismissive ‘didn’t do a lot wrong but didn’t really notice him’ role. And then he clumsily brought down Vedat Muriqi to remind us that moving for ¬£80m did not make him any less clumsy. The post-game inquest will rightly centre around England’s potential for clusterf***; England will not be able to score five goals in every game as insurance for the back door being left wide open.


BEN CHILWELL: Didn’t do a lot wrong but we didn’t really notice him.


DECLAN RICE: A typical English defensive midfielder’s performance that leads to notes that basically boil down to ‘neat, good covering, neat, won ball to set up counter-attack, f***ed up’. Is he the answer yet? We’re not really sure. Is he the best answer we can currently give? Probably. He definitely makes us feel a little less queasy than Eric Dier and right now, that will simply have to do.


JORDAN HENDERSON: Playing with the speed merchants of Liverpool has made him a master of that first-time, low, straight ball forward into the stride of those players who can do the real damage. He released both Sterling and Sancho with such balls, while doing an awful lot of the running around and pointing which has become his trademark. He was turned inside out for Kosovo’s second goal but only because he was covering for his errant defenders.


ROSS BARKLEY: While Keane deserves the fattest portion of blame for Kosovo’s opener, Barkley should be served more than a sliver for not turning with the ball into space after 30 seconds, and instead choosing the ‘safe’ option of firing the ball back into Keane’s feet. Was generally neat with the ball but there were few ‘wow’ moments, barring the muscular and skilful run that led to the penalty. He has been wearing that No. 10 shirt an awful lot without convincing anybody that it really fits.


JADON SANCHO: Peripheral in the opening 35 minutes as The Raheem Sterling Show played to a thrilled audience, but within ten minutes, he had set up England’s third – an own goal – and claimed his first two strikes in an England shirt. This is surely now Gareth Southgate’s first-choice front three, if only because Sancho is that rare beast that likes to play from the right and largely stay there.


HARRY KANE: There is a reason the fuss about whether Marcus Rashford is a No. 9 is so ridiculous; the current incumbent of the England centre-forward position is a brilliant, brilliant finisher. As Raheem Sterling drove through the middle, Kane instinctively dropped left and the strike strike was unerring. You would trust him from that angle – with either foot – with the life of your slightly annoying cat. The rest of the night was largely spent making room for the runs of his dynamic colleagues; for a man caricatured as an ever-hungry goal monster, he seemed more than happy to play the role of foil. He was so determined not to take the headlines away from Sterling and Sancho that he generously missed a penalty.


RAHEEM STERLING: Just phenomenal. The opposition was generous but do not let that distract from a pretty much perfect performance. First the little fella headed a goal – his sixth in Euro 2020 qualifying. Have we mentioned we love him? Maybe once or twice. Even better than the goal was the direct and devastating run that set up Harry Kane. Two years ago, it felt like they were playing very different games; now they are astonishingly good together, especially when Sterling gets the chance to move off his favoured left side. Then there was the direct and devastating run to set up Jadon Sancho. And then the other one.



MASON MOUNT (for Barkley, 84): Came on, created a chance, got clattered.


MARCUS RASHFORD (for Sancho, 85): Came on and hit a shot at the goalkeeper to spark a whole load more debate about him not having a killer instinct. Yawn.


Sarah Winterburn

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