Malta 0-4 England: Harry Kane Helps Fire England to Comfortable Victory Over Minnows
England took a step closer to their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a 4-0 victory over group minnows Malta on Friday evening.
The Three Lions dominated the game from start to finish but endured a largely frustrating night in Valetta, despite the scoreline with three goals in the final six minutes. A Harry Kane double and further goals from Ryan Bertrand and Danny Welbeck, were enough to secure the three points.
Attentions will now turn towards the Slovakia game on Monday, with Gareth Southgate knowing a win will all but secure their place in Russia next summer, as he looks to put right their embarrassing showing at the European Championships in 2016.
Southgate's men endured a frustrating first half, despite dominating the ball they looked lacklustre and struggled to break down the Maltese defence, who set up with the game plan of leaving 10 mean behind the ball.
England should have been ahead after 56 seconds when Harry Kane fed Raheem Sterling who looked certain to score until he took a heavy touch and was thwarted by goalkeeper Hogg, with the wide man appealing for a penalty.
Three minutes later Dele Alli's cross found his Tottenham teammate Kane, whose header was kept out by Hogg at full length, as the usually clinical striker was made to wait for his first goal of the season.
It looked a matter of time till the Three Lions scored when captain Jordan Henderson found Alli but he could only blaze over after 10 minutes and Phil Jones had a goal ruled out for a foul following Henderson's corner.
However, the disciplined Maltese team grew into the game and became confident as England became frustrated and saw the half out relatively comfortably, with an Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain effort comfortably claimed by Hogg after the new Liverpool signing was found by Kane, as the half-time whistle was blown.
After a disappointing first half, Southgate responded by introducing Marcus Rashford for the frustrated Sterling as he searched for a breakthrough. Despite the change, it was the home side who had the first sight of goal as Andre Schembri flashed a shot just past Joe Hart's post.
The deadlock was broken in the 52nd minute as Malta failed to clear a cross and Alli found Kane who emphatically finished past Hogg to score a vital goal for his side. Ex QPR and Portsmouth defender Sam Magri was next to try his luck for the side ranked 190th in the World after he broke forward only to see his effort fly harmlessly wide.
Kane chanced his arm from range on the hour mark as the game began to open up, due to the home side searching for an equaliser, but saw his effort palmed away by the impressive Hogg. Jamie Vardy was introduced with 20minutes to go to inject some energy into the frontline and had a chance two minutes later but saw his flicked effort go wide.
With five minutes to play Bertrand sealed the win for England with his first international goal, as his effort from 25 yards bounced under Hogg. Substitute Welbeck made it three in added on time, on his return to international football, as he beat Hogg to Kane's cross.
With Malta tiring, England scored their final goal of the game when Rashford found Kane, who made no mistake doubling his personal tally for the night, as he smashed past the despairing dive of Hogg.