Malta no match for England
Written By: Robert Halter
On the road to the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia, the Three Lions began their home campaign at Wembley beginning of October with the visit of Malta. On seven minutes, Maltese keeper, Andrew Hogg, sprung into action with a flying save to keep out a well struck effort by England captain, Wayne Rooney, after a one two between Kyle Walker and Theo Walcott, who had the final say in creating the opening. In the eleventh minute, Ryan Bertrand combined with debutant Jesse Lingard, before striking a shot across goal which was saved by Hogg, and then Lingard thrashed the ball wide. On seventeen minutes, after Bertrand broke down injured, Danny Rose took up the England cause. Two minutes later, after a ball over the top from Jordan Henderson, a miss timed connection by Lingard in the area, looped over the upright. Then on twenty one minutes, a perfectly weighted cross by Henderson, was met with a close range header by Dele Alli, which produced a near post stop by Hogg, before Daniel Sturridge, fired the ball over. Then a firm challenge by Rooney on Maltese captain, Andre Schembri, left him worse for wear but Schembri was quickly back on his feet. In the twenty ninth minute, England finally broke the deadlock after a controlled move by Walcott which found Henderson, whose precise cross was met with a cushioned header by Sturridge, which drifted into the right hand corner of the net. In the thirty second minute, Sturridge turned provider as he found an unmarked Lingard, whose downward header was scrambled behind for a corner by Hogg, and as Rooney put the ball over from the right corner flag, Gary Cahill miss hit an effort wide of the target. A second goal arrived in the thirty eighth minute, after an assist down the middle by Henderson, as he took the ball from Sturridge, and after Alli’s first strike was charged down by Hogg, from the rebound, Alli poked the ball into the centre of the goal. On forty one minutes, as Rooney’s pass was laid off by Lingard, it took a near post block by Hogg, to keep out Sturridge’s close range strike. Before the half time break, a Sturridge header was caught by Hogg from a Walker delivery. In the fifty second minute, after Paul Fenech used his hand to protect a shot at him by Rose, a bending free kick by Rooney was tipped over the bar by Hogg, on what appeared as ground Hogg day. On the hour mark, after Rooney combined with Walcott, a cross was driven in by Walker which Hogg palmed away at full stretch. A cleverly crafted back heel from Alli paved the way for Lingard to run through before Walcott fired directly at Hogg, in the sixty fourth minute, before Walcott was replaced by Marcus Rashford. Five minutes later, after Alli was appended by Gareth Sciberras, a quickly taken free kick by Rooney caught Malta cold, before Lingard drove the ball fractions past the right post. In the final change by England caretaker manager, Gareth Southgate, it resulted in a switch of strikers with Jamie Vardy on for Sturridge, which followed with Malta brining on Michael Mifsud for Effiong. After Mifsud was fouled by Cahill, a free kick by Fenech found an unmarked Andrei Agius, at the far post, whose strike from close distance was kept out by a reaction save by Joe Hart, as Malta threatened for the first time in the eighty first minute. But two minutes later after Henderson put the ball out wide for Rashford, he supplied Alli, who blasted the ball over in range of the target, before Malta brought on Rowen Muscat for Schembri, as England put down a marker with a 2-0 win in the Group F World Cup qualifying group.