World Cup Qualifying - European - Group F
EnglandEngland2MaltaMalta0
By Phil McNultyChief football writer at Wembley
Dele Alli
Dele Alli scored the second goal of his England career on Saturday, putting the hosts 2-0 up in the process

Gareth Southgate started his reign as England's interim manager with a comfortable win against minnows Malta at Wembley.

Southgate - in charge for four games following Sam Allardyce's departure after the single World Cup qualifying win in Slovakia - had an untroubled opening as England easily overcame a Malta side only focused on damage limitation.

Daniel Sturridge's clever header from Jordan Henderson's cross opened the scoring after 29 minutes and any notion this would be a contest against the side ranked 176th by Fifa ended when Dele Alli scrambled home a second before half-time.

Only Malta's heroic goalkeeper Andrew Hogg stood between England and further goals, making fine saves from Alli, Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott and debutant Jesse Lingard as the hosts made it maximum points from two qualifiers.

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How England's players rated

Were Southgate's England brave?

Average positions
The average positions show Wayne Rooney (10) and Jordan Henderson (4) playing alongside each other at the top of the centre circle for England. Full-backs Kyle Walker and Danny Rose occupied positions further forward. Malta played a line of five defenders in front of their goalkeeper

Southgate's pre-match mantra was that he wanted his England side to be brave, casting aside the shackles that have restricted them before.

It was a message that was applicable to Southgate's approach in general rather than this specific fixture - it was competence not courage that was required to win with ease on Saturday.

There was a touch of conservatism about Southgate's own selection as he ignored the claims of Manchester United's precocious teenager Marcus Rashford to go with Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge and Rashford's Old Trafford team-mate Lingard in attack.

Sturridge was on target while Lingard was bright enough without dazzling, almost scoring with a first-half header and making a good run to set up Walcott in the second half, so that selection was justified.

England were progressive and positive enough to get the job done - but proof of bravery will come on nights other than this one.

How did Rooney fare?

Wayne Rooney graphic
Playing in midfield, England captain Rooney had 177 touches of the ball, but none came in the opposition penalty area (direction of play is up in graphic)

Once again Rooney was the hot topic of conversation in the build-up to this game. Was he worth his place in England's team under the latest regime after the controversy of his "play anywhere" performance in Allardyce's only game, the win in Slovakia?

Southgate had no hesitation in both retaining him as captain and also playing him from the start against Malta.

But the question of Rooney's long-term future cannot be answered against opposition like the lowly Maltese and with unconvincing performances like this.

Rooney played in a deep midfield role, often almost England's deepest player in the opening half, and his display consisted mainly of passes spread wide and the occasional shot - surges forward into the danger area that were once his trademark were conspicuous by their absence.

He did force two fine saves from Hogg but this was almost like a run-out for Rooney and he produced nothing to banish the doubts about his place in England's long-term plans.

His night could also have been a lot worse, as he was lucky to escape a booking for a bad foul in the first half.

Southgate's signpost to the future?

Southgate will be delighted with the win. It could have been more convincing in all respects but he will regard it as job done.

England were never going to be in danger against a side of such limited options and talents - so more might emerge on his game plan and approach away to Slovenia on Tuesday.

Scotland are the next visitors to Wembley on 11 November. That is shaping up as the game that could make or break Southgate's hopes of landing the England job on a full-time basis.

Man of the match - Jordan Henderson (England)

Jordan Henderson
Henderson completed 165 passes for England - five more than the 160 Malta achieved collectively

What they said:

England interim manager Gareth Southgate: "I thought first half we played well, we could and should have scored more goals. Their goalkeeper made some good saves and subconsciously I think some of our players looked after themselves physically in the second half.

"We missed a couple of good chances but given where we were 10 days ago I am pleased with the result.

"You have to accept [mistakes] with attacking players. I think Lingard had an outstanding debut, linked the play and looked a real threat. He is an exciting player and the stage was made for him. He's enjoyed Wembley, scored twice here in past for Manchester United, and I thought he had a very good game.

"We could have moved the ball more quickly but the game in Slovenia will be different. We managed today, we would have liked more but we'll go from there.

"I have enjoyed the whole week. I would have liked to give the crowd four or five goals but in their last qualifying group Malta only lost by one goal against Croatia and Italy in both matches. Their goalkeeper played well and they defended in heavy numbers but we could have won it by more."

What next?

England travel to face Slovenia on Tuesday (kick-off 19:45 BST), looking to maintain their 100% record in Group F. Left-back Ryan Bertrand, who went off with a hamstring injury against Malta, will be replaced in the squad by Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs.

The stats you need to know:

  • England have won their last 14 qualifying games, and are unbeaten in their last 31 qualifiers overall (won 24, drawn 7)
  • The Three Lions have kept a clean sheet in each of their last six qualifiers
  • England completed 832 passes against Malta; 672 more than their opponents
  • Daniel Sturridge scored his first goal at Wembley for England since May 2014 (the opener in a 3-0 win against Peru)
  • England have had 87 shots (including blocks) over their last four international games, scoring four goals in the process
  • Both of Dele Alli's goals for England have come at Wembley (against France and now Malta)

Line-ups

England

  • 1Hart
  • 2Walker
  • 5Cahill
  • 6Stones
  • 3BertrandSubstituted forRoseat 19'minutes
  • 8Alli
  • 4Henderson
  • 10Rooney
  • 7WalcottSubstituted forRashfordat 68'minutes
  • 9SturridgeSubstituted forVardyat 73'minutes
  • 11Lingard

Substitutes

  • 12Smalling
  • 13Forster
  • 14Rose
  • 15Dier
  • 16Keane
  • 17Oxlade-Chamberlain
  • 18Antonio
  • 19Vardy
  • 20Rashford
  • 21Townsend
  • 22Heaton

Malta

  • 1Hogg
  • 6BorgBooked at 55mins
  • 17Camilleri
  • 5Agius
  • 20Muscat
  • 22Muscat
  • 18Kristensen
  • 4Sciberras
  • 13SchembriSubstituted forMuscatat 86'minutes
  • 8Fenech
  • 19EffiongSubstituted forMifsudat 76'minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Zerafa
  • 7Failla
  • 9Mifsud
  • 10Muscat
  • 11Pisani
  • 12Bonello
  • 14Farrugia
  • 15Scerri
  • 16Scicluna
Referee:
Stefan Johannesson
Attendance:
81,781

Match Stats

Home TeamEnglandAway TeamMalta
Possession
Home80%
Away20%
Shots
Home20
Away1
Shots on Target
Home10
Away1
Corners
Home8
Away1
Fouls
Home7
Away9

Live Text

  1. Post update

    Match ends, England 2, Malta 0.

  2. Full Time

    Second Half ends, England 2, Malta 0.

  3. Post update

    Attempt missed. Wayne Rooney (England) right footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Marcus Rashford.

  4. Substitution

    Substitution, Malta. Rowen Muscat replaces André Schembri.

  5. Post update

    Attempt missed. Dele Alli (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box is too high. Assisted by Marcus Rashford with a cross.

  6. Post update

    Corner, England. Conceded by Gareth Sciberras.

  7. Post update

    Corner, England. Conceded by Andrei Agius.

  8. Post update

    Corner, Malta. Conceded by Joe Hart.

  9. Post update

    Attempt saved. Andrei Agius (Malta) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Paul Fenech.

  10. Post update

    Foul by Gary Cahill (England).

  11. Post update

    Michael Mifsud (Malta) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  12. Post update

    Foul by Marcus Rashford (England).

  13. Post update

    Steve Borg (Malta) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

  14. Substitution

    Substitution, Malta. Michael Mifsud replaces Alfred Effiong.

  15. Post update

    Attempt blocked. Wayne Rooney (England) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

  16. Substitution

    Substitution, England. Jamie Vardy replaces Daniel Sturridge.

  17. Post update

    Attempt missed. Jesse Lingard (England) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Wayne Rooney following a set piece situation.

  18. Post update

    Dele Alli (England) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

  19. Post update

    Foul by Gareth Sciberras (Malta).

  20. Substitution

    Substitution, England. Marcus Rashford replaces Theo Walcott.

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