The Three Lions opened their Group F campaign in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a game against Slovakia in Trnava.
The new boss Sam Allardyce took charge of England in what has been a frustrating minimal win on the road for the English won courtesy of Liverpool winger Adam Lallana who scored a stoppage time winner.
England fortunate to earn three points
The Three Lions have numbers speaking in their favour. However, as it usually happens the statistics often hide the genuine storyline.
England dominated the game with 62% of the ball in their feet to Slovakia’s 38% which is a clear indicator of the proceedings in Trnava. Sam Allardyce’s men held the ball but rarely broke into the proper goal chances during most of the match.
It is not a conclusion you would have drawn from the number of 19 goal attempts to none from Slovakia. England however fired only five shots on target, two of those being Walcott’s disallowed goal in the 90th minute and Lallana’s stoppage time winner.
It is fair to say that England were fortunate to earn three points as most of the ball domination was build up in the final 30 minutes of the match after Martin Skrtel’s red card that had a serious impact on the game.
Skrtel’s red card a key moment
Former Liverpool defender was nervous throughout the game and his 56th-minute red card was just a question of time.
Slovakia centre-back has been riding his luck with a few challenges, but his body check on Harry Kane proved to be a last drop for the referee Milorad Mazic.
Skrtel floored the Tottenham striker and even appeared to have stomped on Kane’s calf for a deserved second yellow which sent him off to the showers early on.
Slovakia consequently pulled back further behind leaving England in complete control of the game, but their back lines failed to hold on literally in the last seconds of the match.
Slovaks would have probably won a point with Skrtel on, so it is fair to conclude that former Liverpool man cost his team dearly.
Big Sam needs to roll up his sleeves
Before the game in Trnava Sam Allardyce said he would take a draw.
Such a mentality against a very ordinary side Slovakia is not what England supporters want to hear, but it was Big Sam’s way to lower the expectations and get some pressure of his back prior to his first game in charge.
Allardyce decided to stick with the 4-2-3-1 system with Kane upfront and Wayne Rooney in his Manchester United position, but England’s overall tactics were poor.
The basics of Allardyce set-up were poor and the Three Lions ended up winning the game through perseverance alone and not thanks to a mind-blowing attack-oriented approach and system shifts that were expected from former Sunderland manager.
Allardyce needs to make significant improvements to his team’s play if he is to lead England to Russia in 2018.
Rooney going deeper and deeper
In a symbolical kind of way too, not solely with his position on the pitch, Rooney keeps falling behind.
Allardyce claimed that Rooney would be deployed in his Manchester United position, but it perhaps was the position he filled last season under Louis van Gaal that Big Sam was referring to.
Manchester United captain was filling in a holding midfielder roll for the occasion in Trnava, deeper than he has ever been. He had little effect on England’s attack which relied mainly on run-ins from Lallana and Sterling on both sides of the pitch.
A limited number of options upfront turned to be a problems for England, who could have perhaps benefited more with Wayne Rooney further up the final third. England skipper refused to make a big deal out of it claiming that he worked on his new roll through the week.
If Big Sam wanted to surprise us by pulling Rooney back, he succeeded. But not in the most positive way that is for sure.
Lallana deserved his first-ever goal for England
Match-winner Adam Lallana got his first goal for England tonight.
Liverpool man was one of the most outstanding performers for England in Trnava with numerous runs down the touchline and efforts that finally paid off in 95th minute of the match.
Lallana showed great composure in front of Slovakia’s goal to fire the rebound into the bottom left corner and through the goalkeeper’s legs after the ball broke to him in the box.
A sigh of relief and a loud cry were clear proof of great desire Adam Lallana displayed through the night as he grabbed his first-ever goal for England. It couldn’t have come in a better time too.
England go home with three points and a lesson learned. The Three Lions face another difficult campaign and hopefully Lallana’s goal will have been a triggering moment for Big Sam’s men who will be expected to raise the level of their performances later on in the qualifiers.
SLOVAKIA: Kozack 6 – Pekarik 6, Skrtel 5, Durica 6, Hubocan 6.5 – Pecovsky 6 (Gyomber 6.5) – Mak 6 (Kubik 6), Gregus 6.5, Hamsik 7, Svento 6 (Kiss 6) – Duris 6
Unused subs: Dubravka, Novota, Pauschek, Pich, Povazanec, Stetina, Sylvestr
ENGLAND: Hart 6.5 – Walker 6.5, Cahill 6, Stones 6, Rose 6.5 – Henderson 6.5 (Alli 7), Dier 6.5 – Sterling 7 (Walcott 6.5), Rooney 6.5, Lallana 7.5 – Kane 6 (Sturridge 6)
Unused subs: Antonio, Clyne, Drinkwater, Heaton, Jagielka, McCarthy, Smalling, Vardy
REFEREE: Milorad Mazic
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