First half goals give Eng­land vic­tory against brave Malta

Malta play­ers leave Wem­b­ley with heads held high

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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