Talking points: England v Malta

England's Wayne Rooney attempts a shot on the Maltese goal during the Fifa World Cup 2018 qualifying soccer match between England and Malta on Oct 8, 2016.
England's Wayne Rooney attempts a shot on the Maltese goal during the Fifa World Cup 2018 qualifying soccer match between England and Malta on Oct 8, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

JOB RELATIVELY WELL DONE

Gareth Southgate had instructed his first line-up as England senior manager to be brave and play with style, with neither aspiration particularly easy to achieve against massed ranks of Maltese defence.

Thus his team deserved credit for relentlessly pursuing the half-time lead, via eight shots on target, that settled the contest. There was no anxiety to endure over the latter stages and, in the context of recent traumas, a comfortable win of any kind was to be welcomed.

GOOD DEBUT FOR LINGARD

The majority in the crowd would probably have preferred to see Marcus Rashford from the start, but the most eye-catching selection was the international debut handed to Jesse Lingard.

His clever running off the ball did set him apart, dragging his markers out of position. He drifted eagerly away from Steve Borg, cutting in-field to connect with Jordan Henderson's delivery only to be denied by goalkeeper Andrew Hogg early on, and was a scuttling and busy presence off the flank.

ROONEY SEEMS A MISFIT

A pair of errors in the opening two minutes did not set the right tone for Rooney, and there was relief when his tackle on Andre Schembri, taking the ball and then the man, did not prompt any sanction from the Swedish official.

England's young players may find reassurance in the 30-year-old's presence and they will probably lean on him more heavily in Slovenia. c

A BOLD LINE-UP IN SLOVENIA?

Probably not for England. Slovenia, currently ranked 67th in the world, gave them problems home and away in qualifying for Euro 2016.

Southgate will surely be more cautious in his set-up. Even so, that would probably not extend much beyond recalling Eric Dier to anchor midfield, possibly in a 4-3-2-1 formation with the excellent Dele Alli and Theo Walcott operating off a lone forward and the full-backs providing width.

Danny Rose was always pencilled in to start tomorrow, and Ryan Bertrand's injury merely guarantees as much. The occasion against Slovenia will offer a better chance to gauge Southgate's immediate impact.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2016, with the headline 'Talking points: England v Malta'. Print Edition | Subscribe