Their qualification for the finals had already been secured courtesy of a 3-1 win against Italy in October, so this match was all about securing maximum points in order to ensure a place in the pot of top seeds ahead of next month’s draw.
Early action at both ends
Malta gave their hosts an early scare with a shot that flew just past Jordan Pickford’s post inside the first minute of the match, but England were soon in the ascendancy and got the rub of the green when taking the lead in the eighth minute.
Phil Foden was lightning quick in bursting into the Maltese box and his cut-back cannoned off the feet of defender Enrico Pepe for an own goal with the visiting goalkeeper unable to get enough of his gloves behind the ball to prevent it entering his net.
However, England were unable to build on their advantage and failed to carve out many more clear cut opportunities during the first half. The closest they came to doubling their lead was when captain Harry Kane latched onto a through ball and was brought to ground inside the area by the diving goalkeeper, Henry Bonello.
At first glance it looked like a stonewall penalty, but the referee thought differently and opted to show Kane a yellow card for diving. Replays suggested that Kane had moved his foot towards the oncoming ‘keeper to ensure contact, so perhaps a penalty would have been a little harsh, but so was a yellow card as he could hardly have stayed upright following the contact.
Fresh legs after the interval
England manager Gareth Southgate introduced Kyle Walker and Bukayo Saka for the second half in order to shake things up a bit but they were still unable to make much headway against a stubborn Maltese defence. It wasn’t until the 75th minute when a slick passing move ended with Saka teeing up Kane that the England captain was able to finally make it 2-0.
England were celebrating again a minute later when substitute Declan Rice scored with a fine strike from the edge of the box, but it was somewhat harshly ruled out for offside after a VAR check with Kane adjudged to be in the goalkeeper’s line of vision. The only other point of note was an England debut for Chelsea’s Cole Palmer, who came on for Marcus Rashford in the 61st minute.
England conclude their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a trip to North Macedonia on Monday the 20th of November. North Macedonia are now out of the competition, having been beaten 5-2 in Italy whilst England were seeing off Malta.