It wasn’t the greatest game of football we’ve ever seen, but England did the job and beat Malta away from home thanks to goals from Harry Kane (2), Ryan Bertrand and Danny Welbeck. 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 Russia. Joe Hart, Kyle Walker and Raheem Sterling represented Manchester City in this one, but they had a quiet game.
The first half was really, really, really boring: England had all of the possession but were content to just pass the ball around the back instead of trying to, you know, shoot the ball in the direction of the goal. Raheem Sterling had the best chance of the half when he was through on goal, but Sterling decided not to shoot and was dispossessed as he tried to round the keeper. A few minutes later Harry Kane nearly got the opener with a free header in the box, but Malta goalkeeper Andrew Hogg made a great stop.
Malta never committed more than two players forward, keeping a low base with a back five and another line of four in front of them to stay compact, defend aggressively and keep the clean sheet. At halftime, the strategy from the hosts worked, and thanks to England’s poor possession game, we were scoreless after 45 minutes.
England weren’t that much better in the second half, but they upped the intensity and the speed of their passing enough to get the goals they needed. First it was Harry Kane who put England in front after a great pass from Dele Alli inside the box, and Ryan Bertrand doubled England’s lead with five minutes to go with a great strike from outside the box.
Danny Welbeck added the third goal with a smart chip over the keeper after a nice cross from Kane, who got the fourth to finish the win after an assist from Marcus Rashford. The Three Lions could have played better, but the win is all that matters for now. They’ll face Slovakia next and their qualification could be virtually guaranteed with a win at Wembley.
England: Hart; Walker, Cahill, Jones, Bertrand; Livermore, Henderson; Chamberlain (Welbeck), Alli (Vardy), Sterling (Rashford); Kane
Goals: Kane (53’), Bertrand (85’), Welbeck (91’), Kane (92’)
Malta: Hogg; Borg, Muscat, Agius, Magri, Zerafa (Camilleri); Pisani, Kristensen, Fenech (Fenech); Farrugia, Schembri (Mifsud)