Enrico Pepe’s own-goal and Harry Kane’s strike saw England beat Malta 2-0 at Wembley Stadium, in their final home qualifier of UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying.
Enrico Pepe deflected Phil Foden’s eighth-minute shot into his own net in a scrappy contest where England were below par throughout.
Kane wrapped up victory in the 75th minute as he struck a low close-range shot from Bukayo Saka’s one-touch pass.
Already-qualified England remain top of Qualifying Group C and on course for a top seeding spot at UEFA Euro 2024 next summer, whilst Malta have finished rock bottom of the group with zero points.
Despite their woes across this Qualifying campaign with no wins and just two goals scored, Malta surprisingly looked more energetic in the opening minute but Teddy Teuma could only fire wide of the bottom-left corner after 30 seconds.
Malta subsequently proceeded to press hard with resilient defensive organisation which frustrated England until Trent Alexander-Arnold played an eighth-minute through ball, which Foden pounced upon in the box but Pepe deflected Foden’s shot into his own net.
England however almost failed to take advantage of their slice of good fortune as Harry Maguire gifted a tenth-minute pass to Paul Mbong, who fired over the bar as he attempted to pull Malta back level just two minutes after they fell behind.
With Malta’s defensive resilience proving difficult to break down, Foden played an one-two move up the left with Marcus Rashford, yet his cutback cross was safely gathered by Henry Bonello.
England’s frustations eventually continued throughout the first half with little chances of note to extend their lead further, aside from Alexander-Arnold’s 38th minute shot hit wide of the left corner.
Harry Kane meanwhile found himself booked for a clumsy dive to try and win a penalty in the 28th minute as he initiated contact with Bonello in a fair challenge, which saw the Maltese goalkeeper clip Kane to the ground.
Three Lions manager, Gareth Southgate dropped Fikayo Tomori and Conor Gallagher at half-time for Kyle Walker and Saka, with the latter creating the first decent moment of the second half as he forced Jean Borg to block his 57th minute shot.
Malta though kept the hosts at bay even if they rode their luck slightly in the 64th minute as Saka’s shot was headed clear to Alexander-Arnold, whose shot was saved.
England eventually wrapped up the win 11 minutes later as Alexander-Arnold activated a quick free-flowing passage of play, as he found Foden to flick the ball forward into the box to Saka and the winger teed up Kane to swiftly turn the ball in to put the hosts two goals in front.
Substitute, Declan Rice almost added a further goal barely a minute after Kane’s goal as he broke forward and calmly rifled his shot into the far-right corner, yet referee – Luis Godinho and VAR ruled the goal out due to a few England players having been offside.
England eventually cruised to a comfortable win which has put them within one victory of potentially being amongst the top seeds for next summer’s main tournament.
England conclude their campaign with a trip to North Macedonia on Monday 20 November in a dead rubber tie in Skopje.
Malta meanwhile have wrapped up their qualifying campaign and can now relax with no friendly fixture confirmed for next week.
England: Jordan Pickford, Kieran Trippier, Harry Maguire, Marc Guehi, Fikayo Tomori (Walker 45′), Trent Alexander-Arnold, Conor Gallagher (Saka 45′), Jordan Henderson (Rice 61′), Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford (Palmer 61′)
Substitutes: Kyle Walker, Sam Johnstone, Ezri Konsa, Jack Grealish, Rico Lewis, Bukayo Saka, Declan Rice, Ollie Watkins, Jarrod Bowen, Cole Palmer, Aaron Ramsdale, Kalvin Phillips
Malta: Henry Bonello, Steve Borg, Enrico Pepe, Jean Borg (Z.Muscat 79′), Joseph Mbong (Attard 86′), Yannick Yankam, Matthew Guillaumier (Kristensen 59′), Teddy Teuma, Ryan Camenzuli, Paul Mbong (Jones 59′), Kemar Reid
Substitutes: Cain Attard, Kurt Shaw, Steve Pisani, Jodi Jones, Matthew Grech, Adam Magri Overend, Rashed Al-Tumi, Kyrian Nwoko, Nikolai Muscat, Bjorn Kristensen, Zach Muscat, Ferdinando Apap
Referee: Luis Godinho (Portugal)