England 2-0 Malta - four things you might have missed

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Gareth Southgate began his reign as England manager with a very comfortable 2-0 victory over minnows Malta.

Yes, it may have only been Malta but England fans shouldn't have to be reminded what happened the last time they faced a side with a population of less than 500,000.

England extended their unbeaten run to 31 qualifying games without defeat through goals from Daniel Sturridge and Dele Alli at Wembley.

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As managerial debuts go, Southgate probably could not have wished for an easier game to start off with and tougher tests are set to come in the form of Spain, Scotland and first Slovenia next week.

However, there were still plenty of positives the caretaker boss can take from Saturday's win. Here are four things you might have missed:

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Jordan Henderson steps up

The Liverpool midfielder has been in great form for his club this season and unlike most England players of the past, was actually able to use that confidence effectively in a white shirt.

Wayne Rooney was picked alongside him and was expected to be the main creator from deep but Henderson stole the show with a fine display of passing.

Just when the Three Lions looked like they were struggling to break Malta down in the first half, Henderson produced a fine cross for Liverpool teammate Sturridge to break the deadlock.

England v Malta - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

And Henderson was involved again for Alli's goal.

The 26-year-old crucially increased the tempo of a slow build up to set up Alli, who stabbed home at the second attempt and round off a 29-pass move.

Jesse Lingard's fine debut

Lingard was the big surprise inclusion in Southgate's first starting XI but fully vindicated the manager's decision to select him.

His enthusiasm to run behind the Maltese defence offered a constant threat down the left wing.

The Manchester United winger was actually unfortunate not to mark his debut with a goal after forcing English-born keeper Andrew Hogg into a couple of smart saves.


The Wayne Rooney dilemma rumbles on

It wasn't the England captain's worst performance by any means, but Rooney did nothing to show his critics why he should be guaranteed a starting berth.

In fact, the sole Maltese highlight of the game was arguably when one midfielder in a red shirt nutmegged the Man United star in the first half.

It's true, Rooney did show a few decent touches and sprayed some good long passes out wide but is that really enough to warrant being picked from the start every week?

Jose Mourinho doesn't think so, so why should Southgate?

If England are set on playing Rooney in a deeper position, his impact on the game must improve.


Southgate passes the first audition

The ex-Middlesbrough boss didn't have too much to do during his first game in charge, however, it would be a pleasant change to see someone who comes across as a genuinely nice guy succeed in the tough business of international football.

Fans might have expected a few more goals but Malta have Hogg to thank for sparing them from a result more reflective of England's dominance.

One of the men rumoured to be interested in the job, Roberto Mancini, was in attendance for the game but at the moment the role is Southgate's to lose.


Should he finish the year with four wins from four, appointing Southgate on a full-time basis seems the most likely end result.

It wouldn't be the most exciting selection the FA could make but if they want a safe pair of hands who is unlikely to get caught out by a newspaper sting 67 days after being appointed, Southgate could be the man.

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Wayne Rooney
England Football
Daniel Sturridge
Jordan Henderson
Gareth Southgate

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