England move closer to World Cup with win over Malta

England triumphed in their World Cup qualifier over Malta on Friday evening in a 4-0 win thanks to two goals from Harry Kane and one each from Ryan Bertrand and Danny Welbeck.

The scoreline truthfully flattered the visitors, who attacked and attacked for large periods of the game but struggled to find a way past the stubborn Malta defence.

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In the first half, England huffed and puffed with Harry Kane seeing a powerful header pushed aside by Maltese keeper Andrew Hogg. Their second best effort came from Dele Alli who, with a clear sight of goal, skied his effort from 10 yards way over the bar – and it was always rising.

The Falcons were astutely organised, particularly in the first half, limiting England’s clear chances on goal and their resilience took a long while to break down.

For all those who believed England would walk all over Malta,  they were brought back down to earth by England’s dull, uninspired opening 45 minutes. Link-up play in the final third was disastrous and the Three Lions looked like they’d never play with one another before.

The deadline was eventually broken early into the second half. Harry Kane has picked up the unfortunate moniker for being unable to score in August – but when the first day of September arrives, he returns to his normal lethal self. Kane escaped his marker shortly after the 50 minute mark and received a pinpoint pass from Dele Alli to see him with a sight of goal before duly smashing home to score his first goal of the season.

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The floodgates certainly didn’t open immediately after this goal, however. Malta probably had the best chance of the next half hour when Sam Magri, formerly of Portsmouth, fired a bending shot wide of Joe Hart’s goal from around 30 yards out.

In truth, the game was put to bed by a pretty meagre shot from England left back Ryan Bertrand. By now, Malta’s tireless, defensive display had began to shown signs of discomfort. When the Southampton full back received the ball 20 yards out and wasn’t approached by a Maltese shirt, he pinged a dipping shot at the Malta goal. Although it wasn’t a particularly powerful effort, Hogg failed to get his hand on the ball, seeing it dip past his left hand and into the net.

The scoreline was probably about right at this point, but Malta’s players had become drained and lethargic in the dying moments. A delicate cross from Marcus Rashford was dinked in by Danny Welbeck to make it 0-3 one minute into added time, before England improved their goal difference further with a devastating Harry Kane finish one-on-one in the 92nd minute.

Game, set, match. It wasn’t entertaining, nor was it impressive – but England earned another three points towards qualifying success.