Liverpool midfielder Adam Lallana scored the first goal of his senior international career, and the first in the new Sam Allardyce era, as England turned in an unconvincing display against Slovakia away from home in their World Cup qualifying opener.
Before the game started, Allardyce had said that he would have been happy to begin his reign with a 0-0- Slovakia after all did hold England to a goalless stalemate in their Euro 2016 group clash, but the dismissal of Martin Skrtel in the 57th minute made it imperative that they come away with more from Trnava to spare their new gaffer a media backlash.
Indeed, it took until the 65th minute for England to even register a shot on target- Slovakia had the Three Lions easily contained till Skrtel’s dismissal. The hosts were even worse- they managed just one shot all game, and even that wasn’t on target. Jan Kozak’s men were content to play to park the bus and England looked feeble and unpenetrative for most of the game.
Video Highlights- Slovakia v England
Slovakia 0-1 England Lallana 95
Slovak keeper Matus Kozacik made a string of decent saves to keep England at bay, but failed to save a straightforward Lallana effort in the 95th minute, and when that shot trickled in, the relief on Allardyce’s face was palpable.
It was the Liverpool star’s first international goal at any level in more than a decade (following his strike at U18 level back in 2006)
Wayne Rooney made his 116th international appearance for England, making him the Three Lions’ most capped outfield player. He is second on the all time list behind goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who has 125 appearances to his name.
The questions behind Rooney’s best position on the pitch continue and it is a telling stat that he did not receive the ball EVEN once in the opposition penalty era.
Check out his touch map for the fixture
Allardyce even had this to say after the game
It’s not for me to say where he’s going to play. It’s up to me to ask whether he’s doing well in that position and contributing. If so, great
That may look like a vote of confidence by a manager in his captain, but there will certainly be some fans who will feel uncomfortable by that statement.
England are expected to comfortably win Group F in World Cup qualifying, but on the basis of this performance, few will regard them as automatic shoo-ins for Russia 2018, despite having the likes of Lithuania, Scotland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Malta as opponents.
Allarydce’s next test is a simple one- against minnows Malta at home in October. The Maltese were hammered 5-1 by Scotland in their opening qualifier with Robert Snodgrass netting a hat trick for the visitors, and England should coast this one.
England XI: Hart, Cahill, Rose, Walker, Stones, Lallana, Henderson, Sterling, Dier, Rooney, Kane
Subs used: Alli (for Henderson), Walcott (for Sterling), Sturridge (for Kane)
Unused subs: Heaton, Smalling, Jagielka, Clyne, Drinkwater, Vardy, Antonio, McCarthy