England secured a crucial victory on the road to Russia on Monday night, coming from 1-0 down to beat closest challengers Slovakia 2-1 at Wembley.
That result means two points in their final two games would secure the Three Lions an automatic spot at World Cup 2018. However, despite a number of positives regarding England’s display, there were also some concerns for fans of Gareth Southgate’s men.
We look at who impressed and who struggled against Jan Kozak’s men…
Rash recovery shows strength as well as skill
Things didn’t exactly go to plan for Marcus Rashford in the opening moments. The Manchester United man’s dawdling on the ball saw him dispossessed by the Slovakian midfield in a perilous position. And the teenager was punished when his mistake led directly to Stanislav Lobotka’s third-minute goal.
However, the man from Wythenshawe showed he has the resolve to match his immense natural talent, single-handedly turning this game on its head. First, Rashford’s inch-perfect corner allowed Eric Dier to slot home to level the scores, before the 19-year-old secured victory with a deft long-range winner.
Jones finally proving his credentials
Despite chalking up 22 caps prior to last night’s Wembley outing, it’s fair to say that Phil Jones had failed to endear himself to many Three Lions fans, with a series of less-than-stellar displays.
However, following a tidy display against Malta, the Red Devils man stepped things up again with arguably his best display in an England shirt. There was one moment of panic when he narrowly avoided an own-goal, but for the rest of this clash, he impressed by keeping the powerful Adam Nemec and tricky Vladimir Weiss quiet.
Questions remain over Ox’s end-product
There’s no doubt Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pace and skill make him a good option for England against more limited opposition. That’s why two of his six goals, and three of his five assists for the national side have come against one side – San Marino.
The Ox’s issue has been in tougher and more important games. Slovakia gave him little time on the ball, and the Liverpool man duly faltered. There was no criticising his energy levels, but time and again the 24-year-old’s decision making and final ball let him down.
Alli combining the inspired with the idiotic
Another day, another Dele Alli display which ran the gamut from splendid to stupid. On the playing side, the Tottenham Hotspur man overcame a patchy start to be one of England’s main threats, keeping the Slovakian defence on its toes throughout.
However, the reckless and impetuous midfielder once again risked getting himself into hot water by apparently flashing a middle finger at referee Clement Turpin. Even though the player claimed it was jokingly aimed at teammate Kyle Walker, it was hardly a smart move.
Alli has all the ability to be a star man for Southgate’s side, but needs to learn how to control his temperature…and fast.
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