Southgate struggles to pick positives as England flatter to deceive

Brian Jeeves

England v Malta – UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying Group C – Wembley Stadium – Reaction

England 2-0 Malta

At its best, it was frustrating. At its worst, it was turgid. There is no masking it, England were poor. Really poor!

An early own-goal from Enrico Pepe coupled with the obligatory Hary Kane strike was sufficient to see off minnows Malta at Wembley, but this was a tough watch and cranked the pressure up on England boss, Gareth Southgate.

“It was a game where we didn’t start well and I have been in football for a long time and know that if you don’t start well then it’s hard to pick the game up,” the Three Lions chief explained.

“We got a goal out of nothing really but the quality on the ball is not normally at that level and it was one of those days where the players knew they could win the game at a canter and we didn’t really extend ourselves as much as we normally would.

“They are playing so many matches and have done such a brilliant job, so I am not going to hammer them for that.

“We know we should have been better than we were but it was one of those days where we didn’t really get going.”

On an evening when it was difficult to pick out positives, Southgate turned to Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold: “I thought he used the ball really well. He has got outstanding quality,” he added. 

“He and Phil (Foden) were the two in the first half that looked like opening the game up for us and used the ball well.

“I thought Marc Guéhi was very good at the back and it is good he got another game under his belt. I thought he looked very calm.

Southgate continued: “The changes brought more quality as well so in the second half, we could have scored more.

“But Malta don’t really lose by fives and sixes and are more twos, threes and fours because they get a lot of men back. [But] we obviously didn’t create as many chances as we’d like to.”


Brian Jeeves