First half goals give England victory against brave Malta
Malta players leave Wembley with heads held high
Despite having put up a valiant defence, Malta was bettered by the English national team 2-0 in the first competition game played between the two sides in 45 years. Photograph shows England’s Jesse Lingard watching his shot on goal pass Malta's goalkeeper Andrew Hogg during the World Cup Group F qualifying match at Wembley stadium yesterday
Two first half goals proved to be enough for England to beat tiny Malta’s brave challenge at Wembley yesterday to register their second consecutive win in qualifying Group F.
Daniel Sturridge’s header from Jordan Henderson’s cross, and Dele Alli’s strike in the first half sealed the Group F win, with England frustrated by the 176thranked visitors in the second half, lacking dynamism and urgency up front.
Malta’s mentor Pietro Ghedin adopted the perfect tactics in the circumstances and the boys played his plan to perfection except, of course, when they suffered the two goals, one of which – the first – could possibly have been avoided.
It was also a start with a victory for new England manager Gareth Southgate who was making his debut after being named ad interim coach following the dismissal of Sam Allardyce a few days ago.
No one was in doubt that this would have been a very difficult game for tiny Malta playing in the ‘Lions Den’. In fact, not even the around 2,000 fans who continuously encouraged the Malta boys throughout the 90 minutes.
And difficult it was right from the first whistle as Southgate’s formation took control of proceedings never allowing Malta to chance to get into their area.
But it was certainly an encouraging performance by the Maltese, inspired by a superb display by goalie Andrew Hogg, without any doubt the best Maltese player on the field of play.
Ghedin’s boys were well organised at the back with Steve Borg and Alex Muscat giving a helping hand to Ryan Darmanin, Andrei Agius and Zach Muscat at the back. Midfielders Paul Fenech, Gareth Sciberras, Bjorn Kristensen and Andre Schembri never stopped one moment, but Alfred Effiong was too isolated up front to be of any menace to the English defence. This was clearly in evidence in the second half when he twice tried to advance to find at least two English defenders blocking him before he could enter the area.
But in the second half, the Maltese did even better than in the first half. Not only did they defy England from scoring more goals, but also went close to scoring through an Andrei Agius first timer which saw Hart turning to corner.
Of course, England dominated but had to wait till the 29th minute to open the scoring. The 38th minute second goal gave them the assurance they needed (if ever they needed it).
It was Sturridge and Dele Alli who provided Hogg and the Malta defence with a good number of anxious moments, while Henderson, Rooney and Walker started most of England’s attacks, especially from the rsaight flank.
As expected, England started on attack and kept Malta on the defensive. In the 8th minute, it was Rooney who tested Hogg seriously, but the Malta goalie saved excellently.
The next dangerous moment for the Malta fort arrived in the 20th minute when Lingard shot over the bar when tackled by Borg.
Two minutes later, it was Hogg who saved the Malta fort when off a Henderson cross, Camilleri failed to control Dele Alli whose header was palmed out with difficulty by the Malta goalie and Sturridge lifted well over the bar from the angle.
England eventually took the lead on the 29th minute . It was Sturridge who headed past the diving Hogg after receiving a perfect cross from Henderson.
In the 33rd minute, England went close once again when Hogg again had to dive sideways to turn a close range Lingard header to a corner, from which, Cahill hit wide.
It became 2-0 in the 38th minute. Henderson and Sturridge worked a good ball before it was transferred to Dele Alli whose first attempt was blocked partially by Hogg, only for the same English striker to bury the ball into the empty net from the rebound.
Four minutes later, Sturridge had a fine incursion into the Reds area blocked by the diving Hogg and in the 45th minute, it was again Sturridge, England’s most
active striker, who had a dangerous shot blocked by a Maltese defender to a corner.
The second half followed the same pattern. In the 54th minute, Hogg had to turn to corner with some difficulty a Wayne Rooney freekick.
On the hour, Malta were awarded a freekick in three quarters pitch. Fenech’s cross into the English area created some anxiety until Gareth Sciberras was blocked on entering the area.
Hogg again saved the Malta fort when he turned to corner a Walcott close range shot. And moments later, Lingard went close with a shot that skimmed the upright with Hogg beaten.
In the 80th minute, Malta also threatened when from a Paul Fenech freekick, it was Andrei Agius who first timed goalwards, but goalie Hart was not surprised and turned to corner.
Five minutes from the end, substitute Rashford crossed dangerously into the Malta area, but Dele Alli concluded over the bar from five metres.
Right top, England’s Gary Cahill tries a shot past Malta’s Alfred Effiong. Bottom picture shows Dele Alli, second left, scoringEngland’s second goal during the World Cup Group F qualifying match between England and Malta at Wembley yesterday. Below is Daniel Sturridge celebrating after scoring the first goal for his side
Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Malta goalie Andrew Hogg turns to corner a Rooney freekick