England won the opening match of their World Cup qualifying campaign with a fortunate victory in Slovakia. The kindest thing that can be said about the first half is that the referee didn’t add too much in the way of stoppage time – in Football Manager, we would have been reading that surely the second half could only get better. England had a reasonable amount of the ball, but threats from either team were rare. England were more threatening in the second half, helped by Alli coming on for Henderson and Skrtel deservedly being sent off for stamping on Kane. Lallana hit the post, whilst with seconds to go, Walcott tucked the ball away, but it was ruled out for offside, which seemed to confirm that despite having a man advantage for 35 minutes, Slovakia were going to be able to hold out for a point. With the last kick of the game, Lallana got the ball out of his feet and fired through the goalkeeper’s legs for the winner.
England had plenty of the ball, but struggled to look threatening with it for long periods of time. Too often, there seems to be no change of pace and it can become narrow. However, the biggest problem is that England players don’t seem to commit opposing players; the only two runs I can remember in which Slovakian players were taken on were by Walker and Stones. If the passing in the final third lacks accuracy, this can make it difficult to create good chances as players are not being moved from their defensive positions. Meanwhile, when Slovakia broke and threatened in the first half, England still looked vulnerable. Allardyce has a lot of work to do.
Let me know your thoughts about the game. Who impressed? Who didn’t? What did England do well? Where can they improve?