England fought hard to win 2-0 against Malta at Wembley. An own-goal by Enrico Pepe in the first half was followed 15 minutes later by Harry Kane’s strike.
The Three Lions had a generally disappointing evening. They struggled to find openings, and seemed surprised by the plucky opposition.
The key points of a modest performance are analysed.
You know that you’re in serious trouble when the Mexican wave and the paper planes appear on your screen.
Most of the match, it was clear that the guests were better than expected.
From the perspective of the hosts, however, the drab performance was lacking the same quality which enabled them to beat Italy last month.
The qualification to Euro 2024 has already been secured, but the Wembley fans were disappointed by only two goals in the first 45 minutes.
The midfield mess
Gareth Southgate’s selection of Jordan Henderson for his Three Lions squads is not random. Familiarity with Henderson has been a key element in this team.
The fears that the ex-Liverpool skipper might struggle with the high level of football in Saudi Arabia after his move were intensified this evening.
In the first period, both Henderson and Conor Gallagher were unable to control the game. Malta was able to take the lead with an alarmingly easy pace.
Declan Rice’s introduction and the improvement in performance was not surprising.
Prepare yourself for the worst
It was not the end of England’s hopes to have Jude Bellingham back in action next year, but it is a good thing that they are prepared.
This victory showed Trent Alexander-Arnold to be a viable alternative.
Southgate may be convinced that the Liverpool fullback can perform in midfield for Euro 2016.
It is unlikely that his boss would risk Bellingham and the 25-year old on the same team.
Phil Foden struggled to start his England career 12 months ago, but these teething issues have been long resolved.
Manchester City’s ace, who was a head and shoulders ahead of everyone on the field, used his trickery and speed to create rare scoring chances for his team.
Foden had a great start to this season, and has excelled in the National Team’s matches against Scotland and Italy.
He and Bukayo Saka are likely to lose the wide positions at forward.
Cole Palmer’s debut was the best thing to come out of a disappointing night for Southgate and his team.
After switching to Chelsea from Manchester City, he has had a successful start. He was even rewarded by an appearance for the national team in a new left-side role.
Although the 21-year old rising star did not make a big impression during his brief cameo, he can still be considered for the squad in positions that England has already covered.