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Superior England blow away Malta to rubberstamp top spot in Group C

Trent Alexander-Arnold moves past Cain Attard. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Three first-half goals put Three Lions on their way to comfortable victory

MALTA             0

ENGLAND        4

Apap 8og

Alexander-Arnold 27

Kane 30 pen.  

Wilson 83 pen

MALTA

H. Bonello, C. Attard (87 J. Corbalan), S. Borg, M. Guillaumier (46 Y. Yankam), J. Mbong, K. Nwoko (59 A. Satariano), T. Teuma, J. Jones, F. Apap, B. Kristensen (59 N. Muscat), Z. Muscat.

ENGLAND

J. Pickford, K. Trippieri, L. Shaw (59 T. Mings), D. Rice, M. Guehi, H. Maguire, B. Saka (46 P. Foden), J. Henderson (M. Rashford), H. Kane (59 C. Wilson), T. Alexander-Arnold, J. Maddison (69 E. Eze).

Referee Igor Pajac (Croatia).

Yellow card Kristensen.

England showed their attacking prowess as they scored three goals in the opening 30 minutes to brush aside Malta and rubberstamp their top spot in the Euro 2024 Group C.

The match turned out into a no-contest as Gareth Southgate’s team were a cut above the home side with a clinical first-half display that punished the Maltese for every slight mistake they committed.

An unfortunate own goal from Ferdinando Apap sent the Three Lions on their way before a spectacular striker from Trent Alexander-Arnold and a penalty conversion from their prolific forward Kane wrapped up the points for the English side who strengthened their place at the top of Group C as they preserved their 100 per cent record and move up to the nine-point mark.

On the other hand, Malta remained bottom of the group without a point from three matches and will hope to put their performance quickly behind them ahead of Monday’s tough away trip against Ukraine in Slovakia.

While nobody expected the national team to take any points from their clash against England, however, the most concerning statistic to come out from the match is the team’s failure to have a shot on target as they looked weak each time they tried to attack the visitors’ defence.

No doubt Marcolini has some work to do on improving the team’s effectiveness when pushing forward in a bid to at least pick up at least a point from this group campaign.

Marcolini was boosted by the availability of his star man Teddy Teuma who won his fitness race and was named in Malta’s starting formation.

The Belgium-based midfielder suffered an injury in the final league match with this club Royal Union Saint-Gilloise and his participation was rated as doubtful.

However, the talented midfielder has recovered in time and was named Marcolini in his starting XI in a three-man midfield alongside Matthew Guillaumier and Bjorn Kristensen who was preferred to Jake Grech.

Cain Attard was preferred to Ryan Camenzuli on the right flank while upfront Kyrian Nwoko, after his match-winning performance against Luxembourg, was given the nod to partner Jodi Jones upfront.

England manager Gareth Southgate named a strong starting XI with their record-goalscorer, Harry Kane leading his team in a three-pronged attack alongside James Maddison and Bukayo Saka.

Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold started in a three-man midfielder alongside Declan Rice and Jordan Henderson.

The biggest surprise was the inclusion of Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi who partnered the much-criticised Harry Maguire at the heart of defence.

England were on the front foot right from the outset and on six minutes Harry Kane saw his diagonal shot blocked by the alert Henry Bonello.

But the visitors struck on nine minutes when Trent Alexander Arnold fed Saka on the right and the Arsenal forward squared the ball to Harry Kane who was anticipated by Ferdinando Apap who inadvertently deviated the ball into his own net.

That early goal rattled the home side and from then on England started to administer the game with their slick passing play.

England doubled their lead on 27 minutes with a spectacular strike from Alexander-Arnold.

Maddison tried to play in but was intercepted by Apap. The ball fell to Alexander-Arnold who hit a rasping drive from the edge of the area that gave no chance to Bonello.

There were more woes for the Maltese three minutes later when Declan Rice’s shot was somehow kept out by Bonello and from the rebound Kane tried to latch onto the ball and was upended by Matthew Guillaumier.

The referee pointed to the spot and Harry Kane sent Bonello the wrong way to all but wrap up the points for the Euro 2020 finalists.

On the stroke of half-time Bonello did very well to avoid a fourth goal when he dived to his left to keep out Saka’s shot.

After the break, Marcolini withdrew Guillaumier and roped in Yannick Yankam to add more energy to his team’s engine room.

The second half had little to offer as England were happy to administer their lead while Malta tried without much success to create any danger to the visitors’ defence.

Callum Wilson, who replaced Harry Kane, added a fourth goal for England ten minutes from time when the visitors were awarded a penalty after the intervention of VAR.

Wilson’s cross was deflected by Steve Borg’s arm but initially the match officials didn’t spot the infringement but the VAR officials called the referee to review the incident and Igor Pajac decided to to point to the spot.

Wilson stepped up and sent Bonello the wrong way to seal a comfortable night for England.

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