The marked difference between Sam Allardyce and Roy Hodgson, many say, was that Hodgson told players what to do while Allardyce let them do what they want. One talking point was the role of Wayne Rooney as a midfielder instead of a pure forward. But the new England coach did not get in the way of his side’s captain. The result was that Rooney played in a very deep midfield position against Slovakia in Saturday’s World Cup qualifiers and not to much effect.
Dele Alli didn’t start off in the Playing XI, but was introduced in the second half. Having a player like Dele Alli on the bench for so long seemed to be a judgmental error on Allardyce’s part, for proceedings livened up a lot after the introduction of the Tottenham midfielder and probably resulting in England’s last minute goal. Rather Allardyce chose to begin with four of Alli’s Spur team-mates – Harry Kane, Kyle Walker, Danny Rose and Eric Dier. While Walker, Rose and Dier showed lot of vigor and initiative in the midfield, Kane’s exceptional finishing skills were nowhere to be seen, which is why the omission of someone like Leicester’s Jamie Vardy was truly puzzling.
Raheem Sterling looked his opportunistic self in the first half of the Slovakia match and created a clear chance, but his quality just dipped as the match wore on. John Stones at the back did not have to do much defending thanks to a nearly 70 per cent possession by his team, but showed some real initiative in essaying the ball to midfield and forward positions. Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson spent most of the time acting as defensive shields to Rooney’s midfield position. Gary Cahill hardly had to play the role of a centre-back and was engaged upfront putting his head to ball whenever the opportunity presented itself with no results.
Joe Hart, whose place in the final XI seemed to be in doubt had virtually nothing to do between the posts. It was only Adam Lallana who got plenty of the ball and was able to make deep inroads into a Slovakian defense already weakened by a 57th minute expulsion of Martin Skrtel. He struck the post once and drew a miraculous save from Slovakia keeper Matus Kozacik before netting one in just a minute before the final whistle.
Allaryce had claimed before the commencement of the match that he would be satisfied with 0-0 draw, a result enacted out when the two teams had met in the Euro 2016. But to have produced the same result against a Slovakia down to 10 men would have been inexcusable. Take away Lallana’s performance, it was a lacklustre and average show by England and Allardyce needs to consider himself lucky that he got away with a win on his debut.
Odds for the win were 11/10 and England are now hot favourites to top the group with odds on winning the group at 1/5. With such poor odds on offer for England, Scotland is a better bet for a top 2 finish at 4/5. For Free bets to place on this check out ExclusiveBonus.co.uk for all the best betting deals.