England 3-0 Scotland

A comfortable scoreline for England, but the result was not always the formality it seems to suggest. The first half lacked in shots on target or quality, particularly in the final third. The one bit of quality in the final third came when Walker fizzed a cross in and Sturridge headed in to give England the lead. Scotland’s best chance came from a corner, but Hanley headed well over from 8 yards out with a free header.

Scotland started the second half well and created 2 good chances at the start, but were unable to take either. This proved costly when the head of Lallana met a cutback from Rose and doubled England’s lead. England started to keep the ball better and their third came through Cahill heading in a corner from Rooney.

England looked frail at the back and in the first hour, Scotland created plenty of chances but were unable to take any; against a stronger side, England will be punished. England do look better going forwards, but too often the quality in the final third was lacking, but when it does work, England do look dangerous. England need to improve keeping possession as too often they gave the ball away cheaply and as with the chances, better teams will punish England.

Slovenia 0-0 England

England were fortunate to come away with a point following their trip to Slovenia. The best chances of the game went to Slovenia, who were denied by some excellent saves from Joe Hart, notably at the start of the second half. The big story before the game was that Rooney was being dropped for Dier, but Dier and Henderson both had poor games in the middle of the park and put the defence in trouble. Going forwards, England struggled to create chances and any kind of a threat only seemed to come in the final third of the game after Townsend was brought on from the bench. However, the threat posed by England was rare and Oblak only had one save to make when Lingard shot from 25 yards. The point keeps England top of the group, but with the exception of Hart’s saves, there were no positives to take from this game in terms of player performances from the game. Whilst England will remain favourites to qualify from the group, it is incredibly difficult to see how they will make a big impact at the World Cup (assuming they qualify) with performances like that.

Let me know what you thought about England’s performance by leaving a comment below.

England 2-0 Malta

England recorded a 2-0 victory over Malta in a World Cup qualifying game at Wembley. Both of England’s goals came in the first half; Daniel Sturridge scored the first with an excellent guided header from 12 yards and Dele Alli doubled the lead by stabbing home a rebound from his own shot. Hogg made a couple of good saves for Malta, especially in the first half. England controlled possession throughout the game, but struggled to create good chances. Too often, the ball seemed to go sideways or backwards and was often slow and narrow, particularly in the final third. Much was made about how England controlled possession, but this would be expected against a team ranked 176 in the world. In summary, whilst England have gained another three points in their qualifying campaign, it was a disappointing performance and they will need to play better to win in Slovenia.

Wales 4-0 Moldova

Wales won their opening game in their World Cup qualifying campaign against Moldova. It was a game they were expected to win, with Moldova at home being seen as the easiest of their fixtures. However, it was still a tough test as while Moldova don’t win many games, it’s rare for them to get beaten by a large margin.

For the first half hour, Wales seemed to struggle to apply consistent pressure and complete passes successfully, especially in the final third. The game changed in the final seven minutes of the first half as a Gareth Bale cross from the right was met by Sam Vokes to open the scoring with a header. With a minute to go until half time, Joe Allen doubled the lead with a shot from the edge of the area. Wales were gifted a third five minutes into the second half when a Moldovan defender passed directly to Bale, who ran into the area and coolly finished past the goalkeeper. Wales were more fluent in the second half and had Moldova under pressure for much of the time. The fourth was added in stoppage time when Bale was fouled in the area and stepped up to score a penalty and take himself within 4 goals of the Welsh goalscoring record.

Slovakia 0-1 England

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?