England v Malta: Euro 2024 qualifying – live | Euro 2024 qualifying
28 min: Kane chases a loose ball, half cleared by Bonello, down the inside-right channel. Bonello spreads himself at Kane’s feet. Kane goes over; he wants a penalty. But he’s getting booked for diving instead! Kane is incensed. But the officials aren’t changing their mind!
27 min: Teuma whips the free kick towards the near post. Kane is forced to head behind. The resulting corner is only half cleared by England, and Teuma crosses again from the right. This time Pickford claims.
26 min: Another challenge involving Tomori, but this time he’s late with his studs on his opponent’s foot. Yankham the victim. Tomori is booked, and this is a free kick just to the right of the England box.
25 min: There’s an absurd amount of wrestling in the Malta box. The referee has a word. Everyone keeps pawing at each other anyway. Eventually Trippier sends the ball in. Maguire does his level best to get on the end of it, but can’t make a proper connection.
24 min: Foden slips Trippier into space down the right. Trippier’s cross doesn’t get past the first man, but it’s a corner anyway. Trippier to take it himself.
23 min: Paul Mbong catches Tomori late with his studs. Accidental, but worthy of a booking nonetheless. Into the notebook he goes.
22 min: Joseph Mbong dribbles dangerously down the right but can’t find anyone in red in the middle with his low cross.
20 min: Teuma attempts to release Joseph Mbong down the right with a long diagonal rake. The ball flies out of play. Full marks for ambition, though; it’s great to see Malta taking England on.
18 min: Foden one-twos with Rashford down the left. He crosses in the hope of finding Kane in the middle, but Bonello intercepts and gathers, albeit at the second swipe.
17 min: Alexander-Arnold and Kane nearly combine to open Malta up down the right channel. Not quite, but Alexander-Arnold is seeing plenty of the ball in forward positions.
16 min: England are dominating possession, as you’d expect, but whenever Malta get the ball, they stroke it around with confidence.
14 min: A smattering of boos for Henderson. The England fans not letting this one lie.
12 min: Incidentally, hats off to Foden for his work in that goal, because he spun off the unfortunate Pepe wonderfully when taking receipt of the ball down the channel from Guehi. Breaking news: Manchester City treble-winner is good.
10 min: Malta continue to go for it, despite that shocking break. Maguire’s poor pass is intercepted by Guillaumier in the centre circle. He pings it forward first time to Paul Mbong, who creams a shot towards the top left from distance. Just over the bar! Pickford probably had that one covered, though even then it was close. This is great stuff from the Maltese, despite the scoreline.
A ball threaded down the inside-right channel for Foden to chase. Foden pulls the ball back from the byline. It hits Pepe, rushing back and not even looking, and the ball sails towards goal. Bonelio, wrong-footed, tries to stop it with a brave hand but the ball squirms into the top right. A huge stroke of luck for England. Poor Malta, who had started so brightly.
7 min: Reid, perhaps frustrated at failing to take advantage of that chance to break forward, takes a hack at Alexander-Arnold and is fortunate not to be booked.
6 min: England try to settle themselves down with some sterile possession in the middle third … but then Trippier ships possession to Reid and is fortunate Henderson is on hand to put a stop to the Maltese striker’s gallop. “I didn’t need your kind link to the Lt. Commander,” writes Damian Clarke. “Before the age of five, each of my children could happily shout along to his wonderful fireworks recording, I’d played it that many times.” Shouldn’t you have told them to?
4 min: Paul Mbong drives down the right and forces Guehi to clank the ball out for a throw. Nothing comes of that, but had Guehi not intervened, Mbong was tearing off towards the box. Malta have started brilliantly, and Wembley is rattled out of its collective complacency. It’s gone ever-so-slightly quiet!
2 min: That was exceptionally close. Teuma covers his mouth in shock, a chance to write his name alongside Davide Gualtieri’s … well, 21 seconds after it … in England folklore!
28 seconds: Guillaumier robs Gallagher, 30 yards from the England goal. He feeds Teuma, who whistles a low drive inches wide of the left-hand post. Not entirely sure Pickford had that covered. Malta so close to doing a San Marino on England!
A warm round of applause – and a huge cheer of appreciation – in memory of Sir Bobby. Then Malta get the ball rolling.
The teams are out! England in white, Malta in red. We’ll be off once the national anthems have been parped, pennants exchanged, and hands shaken. “I reckon that having two Borgs will inspire the Maltese to not lose by a tennis bagel set. That, or the collective hive mind of the Borgs will help Malta realise that Resistance is Futile at Wembley.” Peter Oh, ladies and gentlemen. He’s here all week. Try.
The Wembley lights are dimmed as footage of Bobby Charlton is shown on the big screen. Fans hold up flashlights as eternal flames. An emotional moment.
Gareth Southgate speaks to Channel 4. “We have to win … we always want to play well … we have over 80,000 people here who are buying into what we’re doing … we’ve got some exciting players … we’ve got to work hard as a team and make sure the mentality and attitude is right … if that is, the quality will come through … nights like this are definitely opportunities for people to see what they can do … this is a different sort of test, a team lower in the rankings who pose a different tactical issue … you have to break down a back five and low block … we want to see plenty of movement … we have players who can unlock the door in Foden and Trent and Harry Kane … we have players who can press well … it would be great to see Conor Gallagher get on the scoresheet as well … [Alexander-Arnold]’s passing range and vision is exceptional so this is another chance for him to get some minutes in that role and get a feel of that position … there’s always a plan for changes and we’ve got [sending on debutants] in mind but that depends on the direction of the game.”
There are three players on the bench hoping to make their debuts this evening: Cole Palmer of Chelsea, Manchester City’s Rico Lewis and Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa. At the other end of the spectrum, Harry Kane will be making his 88th appearance in an England shirt … and will be looking to add to his record total of 61 goals.
Tonight’s match programme. There could only be one cover star.
Gareth Southgate makes five changes from the XI that started the 3-1 win over Italy last month. Trent Alexander-Arnold is named in midfield alongside Conor Gallagher and Jordan Henderson, while Marc Guéhi and Fikayo Tomori come into the defence. Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips and Kyle Walker drop to the bench, while Jude Bellingham and John Stones miss out through injury.
England: Pickford, Trippier, Maguire, Guehi, Tomori, Alexander-Arnold, Gallagher, Henderson, Foden, Kane, Rashford.
Subs: Johnstone, Lewis, Saka, Ramsdale, Phillips, Rice, Grealish, Walker, Konsa, Palmer, Watkins, Bowen.
Malta: Bonello, Steve Borg, Pepe, Jean Borg, Joseph Mbong, Yankam, Guillaumier, Teuma, Camenzuli, Paul Mbong, Reid.
Subs: Matthew Grech, Kristensen, Nwoko, Overend, Jones, Al-Tumi, Zach Muscat, Shaw, Attard, Stephen Pisani, Nicky Muscat, Apap.
Referee: Luis Godinho (Portugal).
Let’s not oversell this. England can secure top spot in Group C, and with it top-seed status at the Euro 2024 draw, if they get at least a point against Malta at Wembley tonight. Having already beaten the Maltese 4-0 at their gaff in Ta’Qali earlier this year, and with a historical record against them of played six, won six, scored 18, conceded one, they’re going to get that point. If they don’t win, your humble MBM scribe will eat their hat, in the time-honoured style of well-lubricated 1930s BBC announcer Lieutenant-Commander Thomas Woodrooffe. This as-good-as-dead rubber kicks off at 7.45pm GMT. It’s on, just about.