Gareth Southgate is delighted his England side stayed calm despite receiving some criticism from travelling fans at half-time of their 4-0 win in Malta.
England went into the break goalless with the minnows in their World Cup European Qualifier on Friday night, prompting some boos from the support and self-deprecating chants.
Eventually England broke through, thanks to Harry Kane’s double and goals from Ryan Bertrand and Danny Welbeck, and Southgate was pleased they stuck to their plan.
He told Sky Sports: “We’ve dominated the game. Of course you’d like your goals earlier, and we had a couple of really good early chances, but actually that was a really good test for us.
“There was a bit of stick towards us, we had to stay calm, make sure that we stuck to the plan. And if you keep the ball as much as we did and make the opposition work as much as we did, then in the end they tire, and your goals come late, also with a good impact from the bench.
“It’s really important in these matches that you stick to the plan, that you don’t panic, or start to play differently, taking on shots that you shouldn’t.”
He also said in his post-match press conference: “We have to accept [the fan reaction]. I’ve played on nights like this and if you don’t get a couple of early goals the atmosphere can turn. But that’s part of wearing the shirt. You have to deal with that
“If Germany had played here, we’d look at the score and see 4-0 and think they’ve done a professional job. That’s what we’ve done in the end. It took a while to get the goals, but we dominated the game. Over 70 per cent of the possession.
“I’ve played in so many qualifiers and watched many qualifiers, and I don’t remember many being free-flowing champagne football. When there’s no space to play you have to work the opportunities”
Southgate, who earned his first away win as England boss, added that Malta’s challenge was what he expected, with the Mediterranean side sitting deep and defending with a back five.
“The first goal alters the way everyone feels, and the subs had a good impact too. The flow of the game was all ours.
“When a team defend in so many numbers as Malta did, and defend as resiliently as they did, it’s difficult to advance up the pitch, difficult to find any space within the penalty area.
“It was the challenge we expected, and we’ve won 4-0.”
Kane picked up the man-of-the-match award in Malta, setting up one and scoring two, and Southgate said he was surprised the Spurs striker had not scored in August.
Southgate said: “I’m amazed he hasn’t scored more in August, because he’s such a top finisher. You also don’t get as many games in August usually. But I’m glad he’s come good for us.”
Kane himself also added: “I feel really sharp. I felt really sharp in the three games for Spurs, sometimes you just need the ball to go in the back of the net. I love getting on the scoresheet, and it was the same today.”
If you are using skysports.com you can comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click ‘Report’.