England v Malta: 2018 World Cup qualifier – live!

Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli score the goals to give England a comfortable –though not exactly thrilling – 2-0 win over Malta

Right, that’s it from me. Thanks for your company and emails. Cheerio!

It’ll be, history tells us, a generally uninspiring win. But how could it really be anything else? It’s nigh on impossible to look exciting or in any way vivacious in these games but very easy to look a bit uninspired and generally sluggish.

That’s the pre-game prediction and fair to say, not far off. There were moments of general chirpiness late in the first half but the second reverted to type. Still, formalities completed. On to Ljubljana.

Sturridge and Alli leave the field after the final whistle.
Sturridge and Alli leave the field after the final whistle. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

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Peep! PEEP!! PEEEEEEEP!!! And that’s your lot.

90+1 min: “People will criticise Allardyce but you can’t argue with two wins out of two...” deadpans Paul Griffin.

90 min: Just the two added minutes to play.

89 min: Rooney whips a cross shot well over the bar from the edge of the box.

88 min: This is now flatter than day-old pop.

85 min: Fine chance for Alli to make it 3-0. Malta commit a few players forward and we immediately see why they haven’t done that all game – England break and create a simple chance for the Tottenham midfielder, but he blazes Rashford’s low cross over the bar from close range.

84 min: England, beginning to look a little dispirited, slow to walking pace.

82 min: Agius gets on the end of it at the far post, and Malta’s first touch in the England box is a shot on goal that Hart turns behind for a corner. Which is then helplessly overhit.

Agius shoots.
Agius shoots. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

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81 min: Mifsud wins a Malta free-kick 40-odd yards from the England goal.

79 min: Lingard, whose performance has tailed off horribly since the interval, overhits two crosses in quick succession. Some of the 81,781 at Wembley think about beating the rush for the tube.

77 min: It’s probably worth remembering that in Euro 2016 qualifying, Malta held both Croatia and Italy to 1-0 wins. Though, I suppose, it’s also worth remembering they lost 5-1 to Scotland last month. Swings and roundabouts.

76 min: A change for Malta: Michael Mifsud, once of Coventry City, comes for Effiong.

75 min: Rashford fails to pick anyone out with his pull-back. Bit of a waste – he had time to look up and find a pass.

74 min: A third and final substitution for England: Jamie Vardy replaces Daniel Sturridge up front.

Vardy comes on for Sturridge.
Vardy comes on for Sturridge. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

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73 min: This hasn’t been particularly good from England since the break. Too many loose touches, too many sloppy passes.

71 min: Effiong charges at the England central defenders, but quick though he is, neither Cahill nor Stones is troubled by his direct running. England clear.

69 min: Lingard crashes a shot just wide from distance.

68 min: Theo Walcott’s evening is over. He’s not really shined, in all honesty. Marcus Rashford replaces him.

Walcott shakes hands with Southgate as Rashford comes on.
Walcott shakes hands with Southgate as Rashford comes on. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

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67 min: A dire clearance from Malta falls straight to the feet of Henderson. He dinks the ball in towards Sturridge but the Liverpool striker can’t quite tame the ball inside the six-yard box.

66 min: Hogg, by the by, was born in Surrey and moved to Malta aged five.

64 min: Something’s happening! England finally get beyond the back five once more and it takes another fine save from Hogg to deny Walcott from close range.

63 min: “Nothing’s happening, nothing’s happening … nothing’s happening.”

61 min: Walker fizzes a cross across goal but no one can get on the end of it.

59 min: I don’t think Malta have had a touch inside the England box yet but they nearly do here. A long free-kick is met by an England head but they can’t clear their lines immediately. The danger is pretty minimal but still.

58 min: Nothing has happened for a while.

54 min: Rooney pings one at goal from distance and Hogg makes another fine stop.

Hogg tips Rooney’s effort over the bar.
Hogg tips Rooney’s effort over the bar. Photograph: Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images

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52 min: Henderson’s Hollywood pass goes straight to a Maltese shirt.

“How far down the Premier League would you have to go before you could find a team who WOULDN’T wipe the floor with this England team? Or are we talking mid-table Championship? Or lower?” wonders Wilson Beuys. “And would Jesse Lingard or Theo Walcott be playing for England if they played for, say, Bournemouth or Hull?”

1) I’d say it’s an unworkable comparison. Team that plays together every week and sees each other every day v team that gets together every couple of months to play teams such as Malta.

2) Maybe, maybe not. But the fact that they’re playing for sides challenging at the other end of the table is surely something of an endorsement. If Manchester United felt they needed a player better than Lingard, they’d simply buy a player better than Lingard. Same with Arsenal and Walcott. That they don’t tells you something about the quality of those players, in my opinion at least.

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51 min: A decent delivery from Rooney is nodded away by Agius for a corner. Which comes to nought.

50 min: Rose wins a free-kick on the England left.

48 min: Walcott skips past a couple of challenges down the right but is eventually crowded out.

47 min: Walker goes scuttling back to halfway as Rooney miscues a regulation pass out to the right.

Peep! Off we go again.

Rooneywatch: he’s had a 5/10 game at best and has been outshone by his midfield partner Henderson. On the evidence so far, it would be harsh in the extreme if it were the Liverpool man dropped for Eric Dier (who seems to be pencilled in for the Slovakia game) rather than the captain. It’s An Issue that Just Won’t Go Away.

Rooney, 5 out of 10.
Rooney, 5 out of 10. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

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Peep! Half-time and a decent half for New New England. It’s been utterly comfortable and actually, for my money, slightly better to watch (since the opening goal at least) than these affairs usually are.

45 min: … Rooney takes, nodded clear.

44 min: More neat football from England creates space for Rose, whose cross is cleared away at the front post for a corner …

43 min: Walker whips in a cross and Sturridge rises highest, but his header is straight at Hogg.

42 min: Hogg to the rescue again as Sturridge takes aim from close range.

41 min: Effiong, despite seeing nothing of the ball, is making sure Stones and Cahill know he’s there. A slightly nawty forearm to the throat of the latter is his latest contribution.

GOAL! England 2-0 Malta (Alli 38)

Henderson is the creator again. He surges into the box and drops the ball off to Alli. His first effort is well saved – again – by Hogg but he’s first to react to the rebound and pokes in the second.

Alli scores the second.
Alli scores the second. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

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36 min: But not for long as Agius puts the set-piece straight out of play about 15 yards into the England half.

35 min: Effiong wins a cheap free-kick off Stones on halfway. The Maltese back nine get a bit of a breather.

33 min: Hogg makes a third excellent save. Sturridge picks out Lingard with another angled cross from deep, and the Manchester United man’s header is brilliantly turned away by the goalkeeper.

32 min: … Rooney whips the ball in to a decent area but it bounds through to Hogg.

31 min: Rose gets lumped up into the air by Sciberras to give England another dangerous free-kick …

GOAL! England 1-0 Malta (Sturridge 29)

And a good goal it is too. Another cracking early cross from Henderson from an unorthodox position, this time followed by a pinpoint header from Sturridge back across goal. Hogg has no chance and England lead.

Sturridge scores the opener.
Sturridge scores the opener. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

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27 min: Rooney tries to thread the ball inside the full-back for the onrushing Walcott but the pass is too easily picked off. This has not been a opening half-hour to silence the naysayers.

26 min: Henderson has probably been the best England player on the pitch thus far. He picks out the also-spritely Alli with another crisp pass but Malta smother the danger.

24 min: The aforementioned Rooney goes flying into a tackle in midfield. It was little strong, a little wild … no foul says the referee.

23 min: “Just got back from a speed awareness course,” writes Phil Sawyer. “Not something I’ll have to call upon watching Rooney plod his way around midfield for England once again. Insert your own lame honks here.”

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22 min: Another excellent save from Hogg, this time from Alli’s point-blank header. The ball drops to Sturridge at a tight angle, a couple of yards outside the right post and he hammers it high into the stands. That was a chance he should really have taken.

20 min: England get behind Malta for the first time and Lingard sweeps a shot over the bar on the half-volley from a lovely lofted pass from Henderson.

Lingard shoots.
Lingard shoots. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

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18 min: Ryan Bertrand has pulled up with what seems to be a hamstring injury. Danny Rose will have to replace him at left-back.

17 min: The England band respond to a quiet period by striking up Uptown Funk. Save us. Save us now.

16 min: Joe Hart gets a touch. I think it might be his first.

15 min: A debut for Jesse Lingard. He’s from Warrington. Also from Warrington are the Warrington Wolves, who take on Wigan in the Super League Grand Final this evening. You can follow all the action right here:

13 min: Malta have a back five and a deep midfield four protecting. Walcott, though, finds a yard of space and whips in a decent cross. No one is gambling in the middle.

12 min: Hogg punches away Bertrand’s low cross and the ball drops out to Lingard, who spanks the thing off towards the corner flag.

10 min: Walker plops a cross straight into Hogg’s hands.

9 min: Superb save from Hogg from Rooney’s shot. The ball breaks to the England captain on the right edge of the area and his fizzing right-footed effort is brilliantly turned away by the Maltese goalkeeper.

Rooney shoots.
Rooney shoots. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

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8 min: Walker gives the ball away too, but the possession stats must be 90-10 in favour of England thus far.

7 min: … Rooney pings it into the top of the wall.

6 min: Alli goes down 25 yards from goal under challenge from Kristensen. Dangerous free-kick this …

5 min: Henderson overhits an angled pass in the rough direction of Walcott.

4 min: “I find myself wondering what actual central midfielders think of their job being redefined as a sort of semi retirement for people who can’t run around as much as they once did,” writes Thomas Hopkins. “Would Pirlo have played up front were he feeling a little livelier?”

2 min: Rooney pings a pass into the midriff of a Maltese midfielder, then loses the ball to Sciberras, but it’s pass, pass, pass, pass from England in the early exchanges.

1 min: In chin-stroking-news-that-makes-you-go-hmm, Roberto Mancini is at Wembley as a guest of the FA. Speculate away!

Peep! Off we go then!

Click-clack, click-clack … the players are in the tunnel.

Rooney leads the team out.
Rooney leads the team out. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

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Pre-match email dept.

“Regarding stopgap corner, is Rooney likely to be taking them?” honks Ian Copestake.

“Anyone else hoping for a lot of classic winger action from the visitors today?” writes Marie Meyer. “Or evidence of a good crunchy centre masked by sweet, silky exterior?”

“Who can’t ‘control the game’ in midfield against Malta?” writes Ruth Purdue. “I mean I don’t really care but this is hilarious.”

Heeeere’s Gareth: he confirms Rooney will be playing deeper, “controlling the game” alongside Jordan Henderson.

Full teams

England: Hart; Walker, Stones, Cahill, Bertrand; Alli, Henderson, Rooney; Walcott, Sturridge, Lingard. Subs: Smalling, Forster, Rose, Dier, Keane, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Antonio, Vardy, Rashford, Townsend, Heaton.

Malta: Hogg, Sciberras, Agius, Borg, Fenech, Schembri, Camilleri, Kristensen, Effiong, Z Muscat, A Muscat. Subs: Zerafa, Failla, Mifsud, R Muscat, Pisani, Bonello, Farrugia, Scerri, Scicluna.

Jesse Lingard will make his full England debut.
Jesse Lingard will make his full England debut. Photograph: John Sibley/Reuters

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I have no idea what this is but people seem quite exercised about it:

If there’s one thing you go to Barney Ronay for, it’s stats, stats and more stats:

Wayne Rooney’s first 10 caps and Southgate’s final 10 overlapped in 2003 and 2004.

Although:

Spot the photographer: Gareth Southgate poses with a fan ahead of the game.
Spot the photographer: Gareth Southgate poses with a fan ahead of the game. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

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The England team is in

Hart; Walker, Stones, Cahill, Bertrand; Alli, Henderson, Rooney; Walcott, Sturridge, Lingard. Subs: Smalling, Forster, Rose, Dier, Keane, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Antonio, Vardy, Rashford, Townsend, Heaton.

A debut then for Jesse Lingard, a regular starter for Southgate in the European Under-21 Championship campaign. He’s preferred to his Manchester United team-mate Marcus Rashford in what is expected to be an England front three. Gary Cahill gets the nod over Chris Smalling in central defence, while Ryan Bertrand is preferred to Danny Rose at left-back.

Preamble

So instead of Big Sam we have Regular Sized Gareth. Instead of a bright-new-dawn-that-really-isn’t we have … well, no one really knows what it is yet. It could be the beginning of a long and successfu… OK, we know it’s not going to be that. But it could be the start of a lengthy reign for Gareth Southgate, or it could be simply the first bullet-point in a footballing footnote, as the former Middlesbrough manager joins Howard Wilkinson, Peter Taylor and Stuart Pearce in stopgap corner.

Today probably won’t tell us all that much. You know the drill by now. Look back at England’s recent qualifiers against Europe’s minnows at home and you see a fairly clear pattern. There was the the 5-0 win over San Marino in October 2012, the 4-0 win over Moldova in September 2013, the 5-0 win over San Marino in October 2014 and the 4-0 win over Lithuania in March 2015. You can even throw in the 2-0 win over Estonia in October 2015 if you like.

It’ll be, history tells us, a generally uninspiring win. But how could it really be anything else? It’s nigh on impossible to look exciting or in any way vivacious in these games but very easy to look a bit uninspired and generally sluggish. So Big Sam’s swift arrival-and-departure has at least added a twang of interest in what would otherwise be routine qualifier-trudge. Scotland’s 5-1 win in Malta last month is probably the benchmark for Southgate’s side.

The selection subplots? Well, what Wayne Rooney does and doesn’t do is obvious fodder, and Joe Hart could do with an incident-free evening. He’s likely to get it.

Contrary to what I’m sure you’re all thinking, Malta’s relationship with English football goes back further than 2008-09, when the tourist board were Sheffield United’s shirt sponsors:

Derek Geary makes a rare MBM appearance
Derek Geary makes an all-too-rare MBM appearance. Photograph: Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

The teams first met in European Championship qualifying in 1971, England winning 1-0 away and 5-0 at Wembley. Their only subsequent meeting came in a 2000 friendly, when England scraped a 2-1 win thanks to Emile Heskey’s first goal in international football. The visitors have gone 11 games without a win but generally tend to avoid the sort of hammering Scotland dished out last month. Croatia and Italy were just 1-0 winners against the Maltese in Euro 2016 qualifying.

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