England lack bite in subdued win over Malta at muted Wembley

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England lack bite in subdued win over Malta at muted Wembley

England took the lead through an own goal after a cross by Phil Foden
England took the lead through an own goal after a cross by Phil FodenAFP
England secured a 14th consecutive UEFA European Championship qualifying (ECQ) victory at Wembley as they laboured to a 2-0 victory over Malta - maintaining their unbeaten status in this ECQ cycle in the process.

A capacity crowd at the national stadium expected to see a dominant performance from the Three Lions, even if qualification for Germany 2024 has already been secured.

Far from it, however, and Gareth Southgate’s men were nearly behind inside the opening 30 seconds when Teddy Teuma’s effort drifted mere inches wide of the target.

England struggled for attacking fluency throughout the half, but that didn’t stop them taking the lead inside the opening 10 minutes in fortuitous circumstances.

Harry Kane was booked for simulation in the first half
Harry Kane was booked for simulation in the first halfProfimedia

Phil Foden’s attempted cutback towards Harry Kane was deflected off the unfortunate Enrico Pepe and beyond his goalkeeper at the near post - remarkably the third own goal Malta have conceded in this ECQ cycle.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with England struggling to create anything of note. Kyle Walker and Bukayo Saka were introduced at the interval, and the pair of substitutes were eventually involved as the hosts doubled their advantage.

Walker started an intricate move off with a fizzed pass into Foden, who returned the favour to Saka before teeing up Kane for a tap-in.

The captain has now scored in eight consecutive games for club and country for the first time in his career, and was a fitting goalscorer on the night Wembley honoured the late Sir Bobby Charlton.

The threat on Jordan Pickford’s goal at the other end disappeared in the second period, leaving England to see out a comfortable, yet underwhelming victory.

While the hosts are sitting pretty at the top of the group, Malta are rock bottom having lost all eight of their qualifiers, scoring just twice and conceding 20 in a chastening campaign.

Match stats
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Flashscore Man of the Match: Phil Foden (England)

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Meanwhile, Italy held back a spirited North Macedonia fightback to win 5-2 in Rome, boosting their chances of qualification to Euro 2024 with an all-important game against Ukraine to come on Monday.

Read the full report from the Italian capital now.

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