World Cup Qualifying - European - Group F
SlovakiaSlovakia0EnglandEngland1

Slovakia 0-1 England

By Phil McNultyChief football writer in Trnava
Adam Lallana broke Slovakia's resistance five minutes into added time
Lallana broke Slovakia's resistance five minutes into added time

Adam Lallana spared England's embarrassment with an injury-time strike as Sam Allardyce's reign started with victory in Slovakia.

England struggled to break Slovakia's resistance in this opening World Cup qualifier - even when they were reduced to 10 men after captain Martin Skrtel's 57th-minute dismissal for a foul on Harry Kane.

Allardyce claimed before the game that he might be satisfied with a draw against a Slovakian side who shut England out in a 0-0 group-stage draw at Euro 2016 - but that would not have been the case had they failed to profit from their numerical advantage in Trnava.

Lallana had been England's best hope of a goal as he struck the post and forced a fine save from Slovakia keeper Matus Kozacik before his decisive intervention seconds from the final whistle.

Liverpool's midfield man had failed to score in his 26 previous England appearances but snatched the winner here as his low shot squeezed under Kozacik just as Slovakia thought they had survived a spell of sustained pressure near the end.

A win's a win?

Martin Skrtel was sent off after stamping on Harry Kane
Martin Skrtel was sent off after stamping on Harry Kane

Lallana's winner sparked scenes of wild celebration on England's bench - but this was as much out of relief as any other emotion. Nothing can disguise that this was a largely pedestrian and colourless display until a late surge of pressure against a tiring Slovakia side without key defender Skrtel following his deserved red card.

England often laboured and it took until the 65th minute to muster their first shot on target through captain Wayne Rooney, a reflection of their failure to capitalise on superiority when measured in territory and possession.

Too often, this performance offered up a painful reminder of the flaws England demonstrated at Euro 2016, with striker Kane not only short of confidence - and buffeted throughout by Skrtel before his red card - but also starved of decent support and supply.

It is, however, a time for realism. This is an England team who left France in humiliation in the summer. Those ills were never going to be cured in 90 minutes.

For all the faults on display, this was a crucial if very unspectacular win - a very small building block in restoring confidence.

Rooney question lingers on

Allardyce suggested before the game that captain Rooney would be restored to a more offensive role here in Trnava and that the experiment of using him in midfield, a ploy that became a narrative throughout Roy Hodgson's dismal Euro 2016 campaign, was over.

And yet here he was, back in midfield with Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson as a defensive shield - often dropping far too deep to make any real impact.

Allardyce's strident defence of Rooney's ability and selfless team ethic showed how much he admires the 30-year-old Manchester United captain but it was noticeable England had more drive once Dele Alli was introduced into the number 10 role.

It is early days for Allardyce, and he is clearly counting on Rooney after confirming him as his captain. It remains to be seen, though, whether Rooney is used again in midfield or whether this was simply a decision taken for a potentially hazardous opening qualifier.

After the game, Allardyce said it is "not for me to say where to play Wayne Rooney", adding that "he did play a little deeper than I thought he'd play today".

Wayne Rooney's touchmap shows he did not have any touches in the Slovakia box
Wayne Rooney's touchmap shows he did not have the ball once in the Slovakia penalty area

Time for patience

Tottenham trio on England's last-minute win

England's opening match under Allardyce was greeted with cries of "same old same old" from social media observers - and even those of us watching from close quarters in Trnava would have trouble making a case to the contrary.

Henderson still looks short of England class, Raheem Sterling worked hard to little effect and Kane's struggles continued until he was mercifully substituted.

And yet it is unrealistic - as well as unfair on Allardyce - to suggest he can simply stroll into the wreckage of Euro 2016 and put matters right in a matter of days.

Yes, England might have benefited from the presence of Manchester United teenager Marcus Rashford as an option from the bench and Allardyce's reluctance to use Jamie Vardy surprised some, although the Leicester City striker's strength is on the counter rather than against the blanket Slovakian defence we saw here.

It is the start of a new regime and anyone expecting Allardyce to apply an instant fix is living in the realms of fantasy.

England's rehabilitation will take time. Allardyce and the Football Association will take this win all day long after the pain of France.

Man of the match - Adam Lallana

Adam Lallana (left) is congratulated by England team-mates after his winner in Slovakia
Adam Lallana (left) scored with his 32nd shot for England

The stats you need to know

  • Sam Allardyce's debut victory makes him the ninth successive England manager to win their first game in charge.
  • Wayne Rooney made his 116th appearance for England, more than any other outfield player. Only goalkeeper Peter Shilton (125) has played more games for England.
  • England have won each of their last 13 Euro/World Cup qualifying matches.
  • They have attempted 49 shots (including blocks) in their last two matches against Slovakia, managing to score just once.
  • Slovakia had just one shot in the whole match, and it was off target.

What next?

England's next match will be Sam Allardyce's first on home turf as his side play Malta in another 2018 World Cup qualifier on 8 October.

Line-ups

Slovakia

Formation 4-1-4-1

  • 1Kozácik
  • 2Pekarík
  • 3SkrtelBooked at 57mins
  • 4Durica
  • 15HubocanBooked at 90mins
  • 22PecovskySubstituted forGyömbérat 56'minutes
  • 20MakSubstituted forKubikat 72'minutes
  • 6Gregus
  • 17Hamsik
  • 18SventoSubstituted forKissat 78'minutes
  • 21Duris

Substitutes

  • 5Gyömbér
  • 7Kubik
  • 8Kiss
  • 9Povazanec
  • 10Pich
  • 11Sylvestr
  • 12Novota
  • 14Pauschek
  • 16Stetina
  • 23Dubravka

England

Formation 4-3-3

  • 1Hart
  • 2Walker
  • 5Cahill
  • 6Stones
  • 3Rose
  • 8HendersonSubstituted forAlliat 64'minutes
  • 4Dier
  • 10Rooney
  • 7SterlingSubstituted forWalcottat 71'minutes
  • 9KaneSubstituted forSturridgeat 82'minutes
  • 11LallanaBooked at 90mins

Substitutes

  • 12Smalling
  • 13Heaton
  • 14Walcott
  • 15Sturridge
  • 16Jagielka
  • 17Clyne
  • 18Drinkwater
  • 19Vardy
  • 20Alli
  • 21Antonio
  • 22McCarthy
Referee:
Milorad Mazic
Attendance:
18,111

Match Stats

Home TeamSlovakiaAway TeamEngland
Possession
Home36%
Away64%
Shots
Home1
Away20
Shots on Target
Home0
Away5
Corners
Home4
Away9
Fouls
Home13
Away12

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, Slovakia 0, England 1.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, Slovakia 0, England 1.

  3. Booking

    Tomas Hubocan (Slovakia) is shown the yellow card.

  4. Booking

    Adam Lallana (England) is shown the yellow card for excessive celebration.

  5. Goal!

    Goal! Slovakia 0, England 1. Adam Lallana (England) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner.

  6. Post update

    Foul by John Stones (England).

  7. Post update

    Jan Durica (Slovakia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  8. Post update

    Delay over. They are ready to continue.

  9. Post update

    Delay in match Matús Kozácik (Slovakia) because of an injury.

  10. Post update

    Offside, England. Daniel Sturridge tries a through ball, but Theo Walcott is caught offside.

  11. Post update

    Attempt saved. Daniel Sturridge (England) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Kyle Walker.

  12. Post update

    Offside, England. Wayne Rooney tries a through ball, but Theo Walcott is caught offside.

  13. Post update

    Attempt missed. Adam Lallana (England) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by John Stones.

  14. Post update

    Dele Alli (England) wins a free kick on the left wing.

  15. Post update

    Foul by Frantisek Kubik (Slovakia).

  16. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Wayne Rooney (England) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Daniel Sturridge.

  17. Substitution

    Substitution, England. Daniel Sturridge replaces Harry Kane.

  18. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Dele Alli (England) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Danny Rose.

  19. Post update

    John Stones (England) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  20. Post update

    Foul by Frantisek Kubik (Slovakia).

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Sunday 4th September 2016

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belarus00000000
2Bulgaria00000000
3France00000000
4Luxembourg00000000
5Netherlands00000000
6Sweden00000000

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Andorra00000000
2Faroe Islands00000000
3Hungary00000000
4Latvia00000000
5Portugal00000000
6Switzerland00000000

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Germany11003033
2Azerbaijan11001013
3Czech Rep10100001
4Northern Ireland10100001
5San Marino100101-10
6Norway100103-30

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Austria00000000
2Georgia00000000
3Moldova00000000
4R. of Ireland00000000
5Serbia00000000
6Wales00000000

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Denmark11001013
2Kazakhstan10102201
3Poland10102201
4Montenegro10101101
5Romania10101101
6Armenia100101-10

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Scotland11005143
2England11001013
3Lithuania10102201
4Slovenia10102201
5Slovakia100101-10
6Malta100115-40

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Albania00000000
2Israel00000000
3Italy00000000
4Liechtenstein00000000
5North Macedonia00000000
6Spain00000000

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium00000000
2Bos-Herze00000000
3Cyprus00000000
4Estonia00000000
5Gibraltar00000000
6Greece00000000

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Croatia00000000
2Finland00000000
3Iceland00000000
4Kosovo00000000
5Turkey00000000
6Ukraine00000000
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