England 2-0 Malta: Three Lions secure top spot in Group C with uninspiring win
Harry Kane concludes a well-worked England move during the Three Lions' 2-0 win over Malta. Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images.

England concluded their final UEFA European Championship qualifier at home with an uninspiring win over Malta on Friday. 

On a night where the nation paid tribute to the late Sir Bobby Charlton, the Three Lions were far from their attacking best having lead at the break despite not having a shot on target, with Enrico Pepe's 8th-minute own goal separating the two sides. 

Harry Kane will have been disappointed not to have won a penalty in the first half, but got his customary England goal in the 75th-minute as he finished off a well-worked move from close range. 

The win secured England's place atop Group C but it was a performance far from deserving such an accolade. 

Story of the Game 

Gareth Southgate named a rotated line-up to the one that secured England's place in next summer's European Championship last month. 

Jordan Pickford retained his placed in goal; Kieron Trippier, Harry Maguire, Marc Guehi, and Fikayo Tomori made up the defence; Trent Alexander-Arnold joined Jordan Henderson and Conor Gallagher in midfield, while Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford supported Harry Kane up front. 

Jamaica-born Kemar Reid was handed his international debut for Malta as he lead the line alongside Paul Mbong. Teddy Teuma returned to the line-up alongside Matthew Guillaumier and Yannick Yankam in midfield, operating in front of a defense comprising Joseph Mbong and Ryan Camenzuli at wing-back, either side of Steve Borg, Enrico Pepe, and Jean Borg; Henry Bonello started in goal. 

The visitors came close to taking a shock lead within the opening 30 seconds. After Gallagher was dispossessed in midfield, Teuma received the ball, drove towards the edge of the area before firing a left-footed shot narrowly past the post, which had Pickford beaten. 

Despite the visitor's early threat, it was England that opened the scoring in the 8th-minute. Foden controlled Guehi's pass magnificently, taking Pepe out of the equation; in the centre-back's desperate attempt to get back into position he deflected Foden's low cross into his own goal, despite the best efforts of Bonello in net. 

Marcolini's side were proving to be a sterner test than most would have anticipated. Malta maintained a compact shape comprising eight players that left little room for England to breach before attempting to catch their opponents in transition. 

England thought they had broken through just before the half-hour mark as Kane intercepted Bonello's pass inside the area. The Bayern Munich centre-forward attempt to round the goalkeeper and was felled in the process, however referee Luis Godinho deemed it a dive and booked him. 

It was a first half that brought very little excitement for the on-looking support. As it drew to a close, they began to create their own entertainment as some attempted to breach the perimeter of the pitch with papers airplanes, while others threw their arms in the air for a Mexican wave. 

With the Three Lions failing to register a single shot on target in the first half, Southgate made two alterations to his line-up that saw Kyle Walker come on for Tomori and Bukayo Saka replace Gallagher, with Foden dropping to midfield. 

It was substitute Saka that took it upon himself to break through Malta's resilient back line. In possession of the ball on the right flank, the 22-year-old drew in the defender before combining with Alexander-Arnold to get into the area, but his effort deflected out for a corner. 

England severely lack cohesion and a moment just before the hour-mark was an exemplification. As Alexander-Arnold ran on to the ball, Rashford attempt to take control of it on the edge of the area but it resulted in a collision that left the latter in a heap on the floor. 

In the 63rd-minute England registered their first shot on target. Substitute Walker attempted to breach Malta's defence with a lofted pass over the defence - it was dealt with well but the header fell to Alexander-Arnold on the edge of the area, who fired a right-footed half-volley into Bonello's midriff. 

Moments later, Alexander-Arnold had another attempt at goal. After debutant Cole Palmer was fouled outside the area, Foden rolled the resulting free-kick across his body to the right for the 25-year-old to run onto, however his curling effort flew over the bar. 

With 75 minutes of the clock, England doubled their lead through Kane. After dispossessing Joseph Mbong on the left, Alexander-Arnold moved inside to switch the play to Walker; the full-back moved the ball to Foden who slipped in Saka to pull it back for an easy tap-in for Kane. 

Two minutes later, the hosts thought they made it three. It was a brilliant effort from substitute Declan Rice, whose unopposed run forward concluded with a fine curling effort into the bottom right corner. However, VAR intervened as it was deemed that it had deflected off Kane in an offside position. 

England controlled proceedings but Malta continued to push for a goal and came close in the 82nd-minute. Paul Mbong tried to beat Pickford at his near post but fired wide of the mark from a tight angle, not troubling the England shot-stopper. 

Despite a more than commendable effort from the Maltese, they were unable to amount to anything and fell to a seventh consecutive defeat to their hosts. 

Player of the Match: Phil Foden 

In a match that left a lot of be desired, Manchester City's Foden was a bright spark in what was a bleak performance from the Three Lions.

Involved in both goals, creating the opportunity that resulted in Pepe redirecting his cutback into his own net with a sensational first touch before setting up Saka to assist Kane's goal, Foden always looked like the one capable of creating excitement. 

The 23-year-old was the main threat on the right during the first half and continued to be so in the second despite dropping into midfield. He was constant in wanting to receive the ball on the turn in tight spaces and was key in breaking through a commendable defensive effort.