Monday, October 23, 2017

England 2 Lithuania 0: Returning Defoe on target in routine win

SoccerNews in World Cup 26 Mar 2017

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Jermain Defoe made a goalscoring return to the international fold as England chalked up a routine 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Lithuania.

The 20th strike of Defoe’s international career came after 21 minutes at Wembley and four years on from his 19th versus minnows San Marino in March 2013.

Aside from the 34-year-old Sunderland striker celebrating a starting berth in familiar style, there was little else to write home about in a forgettable encounter.

Manchester City centre-back John Stones was forced into a goal-line clearance on the stroke of half-time but Gareth Southgate’s side closed out victory in comfort after Defoe’s replacement Jamie Vardy doubled their advantage midway through the second period.

Burnley’s Michael Keane made his competitive debut alongside Stones at the heart of defence and England are the only side yet to concede a goal in the European qualifying section.

They sit five points clear at the top of Group F ahead of nearest challengers Slovenia facing Scotland at Hampden Park later on Sunday.

England initially struggled to break through a deep-lying Lithuanian defence, the tempo of their passing insufficient to trouble Edgaras Jankauskas’ visitors.

Adam Lallana slipped a pass through the massed ranks for a sliding Defoe to draw a block from Ernestas Setkus but the master marksman would leave Lithuania’s goalkeeper with no chance a little over half a minute later.

Raheem Sterling scooted around Egidijus Vaitkunas down the left channel and cut back an inviting ball for Defoe to open up his body and sidefoot home.

The Sunderland man pulled a drive wide from 25 yards as the half hour approached having fully warmed to his task, even if the match itself fully retained a late Sunday afternoon feel until Lithuania almost levelled in first-half stoppage time.

Nerijus Valskis nodded over the on-rushing Joe Hart when the linesman inexplicably failed to flag him offside and it was left to Stones to mop up on the line.

Sterling should have given England the extra insurance that scare suggested they might need early in the second half but made wretched contact with Ryan Bertrand’s inviting cross.

Lithuania forward Vykintas Slivka and England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain called Hart and Setkus into action from range for a momentary lift in the intensity.

Inspiration only truly arrived in the 66th minute – Lallana producing an instinctive, immaculate touch to lay on Vardy for England’s second.

It was a lively cameo from the Leicester City striker and he lifted a one-on-one over in the 79th minute.

Eric Dier powered wide from a corner shortly afterwards, with Lithuania ultimately avoiding further damage as they flagged during the closing stages.

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