England ended their 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign with a win in Lithuania. But it was another desperately worrying performance with Harry Kane’s penalty saving England from embarrassment.
With England already through, Southgate made seven changes to the side that beat Slovenia on Thursday. Winks and Maguire made their full debuts for the three lions in a rotated squad. Only Henderson, Rashford, Alli and Kane remained in the squad from Thursday’s victory. Butland, Keane, Stones, Trippier and Creswell were also brought in for starts.
Lithuania had the first chance of the match with Sernas’ near-post header hitting the side-netting following Maguire’s slip. England’s first chance of the match fell to Keane minutes after. His volley flashed wide after the ball fell to him nicely in the area.
After a great move from England, Alli was brought down in the box and England were awarded a penalty. Captain Kane continued his fine form as his inch-perfect shot went in off the post and England had the lead.
Rashford and Winks nearly doubled England’s break either side of half time. Both times Lithuania’s keeper was forced into a good save, keeping the hosts in the match. Butland was then forced into a great save after Keane nearly turned the ball in the bottom corner from a dangerous Lithuania cross, in what was a torrid night for the centre-back.
Both sides had several half chances from then on but it ended 1-0 to the visitors in what was another very mediocre evening for England.
It was the same pedestrian, poor, slow football we have seen since Southgate took over as England again made extremely hard work of average opposition. There was no urgency or pace about England at all, just like most other group games.
One of the biggest positives for England tonight though was the performance of Harry Winks. He created a lot and looked very comfortable at all times. The Spurs midfielder created a lot and was certainly more effective than the likes of Jordan Henderson has been in that situation.
However, Keane and Maguire I felt were extremely uncomfortable and dodgy. Against any opposition with a bit of quality and I think it’s fair to say we would have conceded a few tonight. Butland, however, was solid, making a couple of impressive saves.
The Three Lions now move on to friendlies next month against Brazil and Germany. If England were to get a couple of good results it may give people a bit more hope. However, it looks incredibly unlikely with the poor football on show as well as being up against the top two in the world rankings.