England maintained their near-perfect record in 2024 European Championship qualifying Group C with a routine 2-0 win against Malta at Wembley Stadium this evening.
However, having already down a place at next summer’s tournament, Gareth Southgate’s side delivered an unimpressive performance in their penultimate qualifying game.
Unanswered goals on either side of half-time sealed the deal for England, extending their winning streak in Euro qualifiers at Wembley to 14 matches.
Despite failing to create many clear-cut chances in the opening half, the hosts claimed the lead in the eighth minute as Phil Foden’s attempted cutback towards Harry Kane took a deflection off Enrico Pepe and finished in the back of the net.
Barring Malta’s third own goal in the ongoing qualifying cycle, England didn’t produce a single shot on target in the first 45 minutes, even though they enjoyed 73% ball possession.
Southgate’s double-change at the start of the second half shook the beaten Euro 2024 finalists, but their showing was nowhere near fans’ lofty ambitions.
Kyle Walker, who joined the fray after the break, initiated an intricate move on the periphery of Malta’s penalty area as he played the ball to Foden, who found Bukayo Saka inside the box.
An almost telepathic understanding between the Arsenal forward and Harry Kane resulted in England doubling their lead as the skipper turned home Saka’s teasing ball to put the game beyond doubt.
Moments later, second-half substitute Declan Rice made a stunning solo run after picking up the ball at the halfway line and finished with aplomb from the edge of the box.
Unfortunately, VAR ruled it out for Kane’s offside. England had no problem keeping hold of their comfortable lead for the rest of the game, cementing a top-table finish ahead of the final round.
North Macedonia will host the Group C winners in the final England fixture ahead in the ongoing qualifying cycle.
England Player Ratings
Jordan Pickford (6/10) – Malta didn’t have a shot on target, but the Everton goalkeeper scooped up several crosses into the box and refused to shy away from playing his part in the build-up.
Fikayo Tomori (6/10) – Deployed out of position, the AC Milan centre-back struggled playing at left-back. Though he had a field day when asked to defend, he had nothing to offer in the front third.
Harry Maguire (7/10) – Another morale-boosting performance from the former Manchester United captain. Dominant in the air and comfortable with the ball at his feet.
Marc Guehi (7/10) – Like his defensive colleague, the Crystal Palace ace enjoyed a decent game. You’d expect nothing less against a sub-par rival.
Kieran Trippier (6/10) – Changed the flanks at half-time, which did nothing to improve his image as he performed well below his Newcastle United standard.
Jordan Henderson (5/10) – Dictating the pace against a team of Malta’s stature proved daunting for the veteran midfielder, who looked tired, slow and uneventful.
Conor Gallagher (6/10) – One of the rare England players to have had progressive runs in the first half. However, lacked guile and constantly struggled for the final touch.
Trent Alexander-Arnold (6/10) – Back in midfield, the Liverpool right-back tried to be creative, but it wasn’t his night. Misplaced numerous diagonal balls, while his set-piece deliveries were often off the mark.
Marcus Rashford (4/10) – In a game designed to bolster confidence, the out-of-sorts Man Utd forward switched off, failing to win a single one-on-one duel against Hamrun defender Joseph Mbong.
Phil Foden (8/10) – Enjoyed a decent first half but often lacked support from Trippier on the right and had his hand in England’s second. The Three Lions’ most eventful player tonight.
Harry Kane (7/10) – A frustrating night for the Bayern Munich goal machine as he lacked concrete service in the box. Took advantage of the only chance he had and was perhaps unrightfully punished for a ‘dive.’
Kyle Walker (7/10)
Bukayo Saka (7/10)
Cole Palmer (6/10)
Declan Rice (8/10)
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