England continued their serene progress to the 2018 World Cup in Russia with a straightforward 2-0 victory over Lithuania on Sunday.
The win also ensured Gareth Southgate’s competitive tenure as full-time England manager got off to a winning start.
Southgate made the call to start Sunderland’s in-form veteran Jermain Defoe and was quickly rewarded. Just 21 minutes into his first start for England in four years he had found the back of the net. Good work from Raheem Sterling down the left meant the 34-year-old had a simple finish for his 20th England goal.
England dominated the first half but struggled to open up many clear chances against a very defensive Lithuania outfit. However the 107th best team in the world nearly drew level just before the break when Joe Hart found himself in no-man’s land. Thankfully for the Man City exile John Stones was on hand to hook the ball off the line.
A flat second half was improved when Jamie Vardy, sporting a black eye, found the back of the net minutes after coming on for Defoe. The buzzing Adam Lallana provided the assist.
Southgate opted for a 4-5-1 system after the relatively successful 3-4-2-1 experiment used against Germany inmidweek. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain took up a central midfield role alongside Eric Dier while Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli and Lallana were charged with coming up with the creativity to unlock the vistitors’ defence.
It was a performance tough to get excited about – Lithuania just didn’t provide the sort of test that shows us where this England team are with just over a year to the World Cup.