Late flurry secures win for underwhelming England in Malta

Saturday, 02 Sep, 2017

It didn't feel like a team so close to World Cup qualification but, then again, it was also worth remembering Malta's defence included a centre-half from Ebbsfleet, now 13th in the National League.

Until the 85th minute Kane's solitary strike was all that divided the sides in the Ta' Qali National Stadium but a late flurry gave the scoreline a gloss that disguised a laboured and often guileless England performance. A Harry Kane double and further goals from Ryan Bertrand and Danny Welbeck, were enough to secure the three points.

England are two points clear at the top of UEFA Group F and can take a giant step towards qualification by beating minnows Malta and then defeating closest rivals Slovakia at Wembley on Monday.

I think Kane will be captain at the World Cup but Southgate's message seems like he's unsure who will have it long term, so I expect to see him switch it around.

Hogg was very active early on and pulled off a fine reaction save from Kane in the fifth minute the Spurs striker meeting club team-mate Dele Alli's pinpoint cross with his head.

England manager Gareth Southgate has praised West Ham goalkeeper Joe Hart and revealed that he feels that the 30-year-old is still the countries best shot-stopper. The Three Lions weren't very good for most of the match, but scored the goals in the second half and got an important win on the road to Russian Federation.

Kane has just gone through his trademark goal drought in August - he hasn't scored in 12 Premier League games that month for Tottenham - but he got off the mark this season on the first day of September.

As ever with England, the bicep around which the captain's armband will be stretched is focusing attentions, with Kane and Jordan Henderson among those in contention to succeed Rooney as full-time skipper.

"Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has left the England camp and returned to Everton", the FA said in a statement.

In a drab affair, it took England 53 minutes to break the deadlock through Harry Kane.

The odd nervy moment when racing off his line in the opening period did little to win over the doubters, but those in front of him were in for the most flak after a promising England start petered out.

Alli's dilly-dallying looked to have cost his side a chance within the Maltese 18-yard box, but he remained calm and played through Kane to hit home a low shot. The home side hadn't been able to produce any more.