England maintained their unbeaten record and went five points clear at the top of World Cup Qualifying Group F with a 2-0 win over Lithuania.
Here are five things we learned from the fixture.
A welcome return for Jermaine Defoe
November 2013 against Chile was the last time Jermaine Defoe played for England. It should not have been nearly four years before he made his next appearance for his country. The Sunderland striker marked his return with a 21st minute goal after he latched onto Sterling’s superb cross. Age is just a number and there is no reason why Man of the Match Defoe shouldn’t be in England’s World Cup squad next year if he continues his great form.
His mascot Bradley Lowery, a five-year-old Sunderland fan battling terminal cancer neuroblastoma, who he has struck up a special bond with was delighted to see his hero score at Wembley.
Touch of class from Joe Hart
For the second time in his international career, Joe Hart was given the captain’s armband. It must be one of the proudest moments to lead out your county as captain. Traditionally the captain leads the team out but Joe Hart relinquished that privilege so Jermain Defoe and Bradley Lowery could do the honours. This was an incredibly kind gesture and shows the type of player Hart is. He also became the 26th man to reach 70 caps for England and kept his fifth consecutive clean sheet of the World Cup Qualifying campaign.
Nerijus Valskis was the only Lithuanian player who wanted to attack
From the first minute it was clear that Lithuania just planned to get men behind the ball and thwart England’s attacks rather than going forward themselves.
Just before half-time Nerijus Valskis beat Hart to the ball and would have got the equaliser for Lithuania if his header had been more powerful. He was clearly offside but it wasn’t flagged. John Stones was on hand to hack it clear and spare Hart’s blushes. Valskis was just as lively at the start of the second half. He was allowed space and fired a left-footed shot which Hart saved with ease. This was his last notable contribution before exiting the field in the 73rd minute.
Adam Lallana continues to prove his worth from England
Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana is at the heart of almost every positive England attack. He was awarded England Player of the Year for 2016 and it is clear to see why.
When the score was 0-0, Lallana put in a through ball for Defoe who was denied by the keeper. Six minutes after coming on in the second half, Jamie Vardy doubles England’s led. Once again Lallana was involved, providing the assist for Vardy after jinking past a few Lithuania defenders.
His work rate and technique is unquestionable and he is an asset to the England squad. In his last five England appearances Lallana has been directly involved in four goals with three goals and one assist.
The Three Lions still require more finesse up front
England should have won this game 4-0 at the very least. The fans came to Wembley to be entertained and they were well and truly short-changed. There was hardly any entertaining moments in the game and it was a fairly routine win for England.
The Three Lions will qualify for the World Cup next year with ease but against lower opposition they should be dominating the game from start to finish and converting the majority of their chances.
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