Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kane at the Double but England Fail to Impress; MALTA 0 England 4

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Kane at the Double but England Fail to Impress; MALTA 0 England 4

Article excerpt

hARRY Kane began September by bringing his mini scoring drought to a timely end, but the way Gareth Southgate's England toiled to victory in Malta underlines just how much work needs to be done ahead of the World Cup.

It surely remains a case of when, rather than if, the Three Lions secure their place in Russia next summer - but the underwhelming nature of their display at the Ta' Qali National Stadium raises concerns.

Malta are ranked joint 190th in the world behind American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Brunei and Bangladesh, yet it took Kane's second-half strike and a late flurry of goals from Ryan Bertrand, Danny Welbeck and the Tottenham striker to eventually secure a flattering win.

England's 3,700 travelling fans resorted to gallows humour during a dire first half, chanting "we're f***** s***" and then booing their players at the end of a period devoid of inspiration, drive and intent.

Andre Schembri gave England a scare shortly after the break, only for Kane - who had endured another barren August - to quickly retaliate by slotting home after patient play by Dele Alli.

Bertrand's long-range strike - his first international goal - added gloss five minutes before time, beginning a Malta collapse which soon saw Welbeck and Kane score.

The scoreline could not divert attention from a poor overall display, though, and improvements will be needed at home to Group F's second-placed side Slovakia on Monday, never mind the World Cup.

On a warm night, the England boss stuck with his pledge to name a strong line-up, even if some will argue with his assertion Joe Hart is the country's best goalkeeper at the moment.

The odd nervy moment when racing off his line in the opening period did little to win over the doubters, but those in front of him were in for the most flak after a promising England start petered out.

Andrew Hogg was key to restricting England to a 2-0 win in Southgate's first match at the helm and was impressive again, producing a fine stop to deny a close-range Kane header after Raheem Sterling was crowded out.

Jordan Henderson and Alli also threatened before Phil Jones saw a goal chalked off as the first-half performance became increasingly cumbersome. …

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