Adam Lallana left it late to score a winner for England to defeat Slovakia by 1-0, saving England from more embarrassment since their inglorious European exit against Iceland.
Martin Skrtel, Lallana’s former Liverpool teammate and captain for Slovakia, was sent off in the 57th minute for picking up a second yellow card after he fouled Harry Kane in the World Cup qualifying game.
However, just as it was in the European Championship, Sam Allardyce’s men still struggled to break down the Slovakian defense despite having strength in numbers this time around.
It was obvious that the team still had problems up front as Wayne Rooney finally registers England’s first shot on goal at the 65th minute. But even with that contribution, he lacks impact in his midfield role, often dropping far too deep.
Harry Kane, too, looks short of confidence the entire time before he was taken off and replaced by his Tottenham teammate Dele Alli. Kane himself had been shoved around much by Skrtel and had often looked cut off, isolated by the host nation’s defensive line.
The Euro 2016 match back in June between the two teams had ended in a goalless draw; this match looked destined for the same fate before Lallana finally scores his first goal for his country after 26 appearances.
The midfielder managed to snatch the winning goal as the ball dropped to him, eight yards from goal, and he pulled back his left foot in a congested penalty area to squeeze a low shot underneath past Slovakia keeper Matus Kozacik.
There was only time for Slovakia to take the kick-off before the referee blew for the end of the game, sparking scenes of wild celebrations on England’s bench as their World Cup qualifying campaign went off to a winning start.