Slovakia vs. England: Score, Reaction from World Cup 2018 Qualifier

Rob Blanchette@@_Rob_BFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2016

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Adam Lallana of England (obscured) celebrates with team mates as he scores their first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

England stole a 1-0 away win against Slovakia in the 95th minute in 2018 World Cup qualification, as both sides meandered during their Group F game on Sunday. 

Adam Lallana found the back of the net in the final seconds, as England made their late pressure pay off after a poor performance.

The match marked manager Sam Allardyce's first game in charge of the Three Lions, and he will be relieved his team rescued the points when a goalless draw looked likely.

Slovakia were dealt a blow as wingers Vladimir Weiss and Ondrej Duda missed out due to injury. Robert Mak and Dusan Svento were called upon to flank striker Michal Duris as a result. Marek Hamsik started in midfield, while former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel captained the team.

(Back row L to R) England's midfielder Eric Dier, England's defender Gary Cahill, England's goalkeeper Joe Hart, England's midfielder Jordan Henderson and England's defender John Stones, (front row L to R) England's defender Kyle Walker, England's forward
JOE KLAMAR/Getty Images

Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson were Allardyce's preferred duo in midfield, ahead of centre-backs Gary Cahill and John Stones, and Wayne Rooney skippered the team. Torino loanee Joe Hart started in goal ahead of Alex McCarthy and Tom Heaton.

ESPN's Musa Okwonga gave his verdict on Allardyce's first selection:

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  (L-R) Sam Allardyce manager of England, Sammy Lee assistant manager of England, Craig Shakespeare coach of England and Martyn Margetson goalkeeping coach of England look on prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualify
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The first half was a dull affair, as England maintained possession with little threat.

Rooney played a reserved role, dropping deep as Harry Kane pushed forward, but there was no cohesion from the English players, similar to the frustrating performances from the summer at Euro 2016 in France.

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty called the action:

England's defender Danny Rose (L) vies with Slovakia's defender Peter Pekarik during the World Cup 2018 football qualification match between Slovakia and England in Trnava, Slovakia, on September 4, 2015.  / AFP / JOE KLAMAR        (Photo credit should re
JOE KLAMAR/Getty Images

Rooney was lucky not to see a card as he dived into a wild challenge on Hamsik in midfield. The captain's frustration was evident, as the England players lacked communication or a modicum of quality.

Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph gave a damning verdict as the teams trudged off for half-time:

WhoScored.com monitored Rooney's movement throughout the first half, as the Manchester United icon failed to provide vision or threat and was stuck in midfield:

WhoScored.com also provided full player ratings and stats, as neither team troubled the opposite goalkeeper. England had the majority of possession but favoured function over flair:

The Three Lions received a boost in the second half when Skrtel stamped on Kane to earn a red card.

The former Liverpool man was lucky to not receive his marching orders earlier after several challenges, but his attack on the Tottenham Hotspur forward was only yards from the referee.

Allardyce responded by throwing on substitute Dele Alli in the hunt for a goal, and his side progressively played their football in more advanced positions. However, there was a distinct lack of spark from the England players, who walked around the pitch, rarely upping the tempo.

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Harry Kane of England is injured after a challenge by Martin Skrtel of Slovakia during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Rooney produced a rare shot as Alli caused problems in the penalty box, but the chance went begging once more.

The opportunity motivated the Three Lions, and Slovakia appeared anxious as Allardyce's tactics exploited the extra man.

Theo Walcott was given his chance from the bench, replacing the ineffective Raheem Sterling, and the Arsenal man linked well as England reluctantly chased a winner.

The atmosphere remained muted in what appeared more like a pre-season friendly at times, but England nearly took the lead when a turn and strike by Lallana smashed against the post after 75 minutes. Walcott should have put away the rebound, but the forward fluffed his lines.

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Sam Allardyce manager of England looks on from the touchline during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September 4, 2016 in Trnava, Slovakia.  (Photo by Dan Mull
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Daniel Sturridge was the England boss' last role of the dice, coming on for the final 10 minutes of the contest as Kane made way.

England packed the box as they flooded their opposition, but the final ball and finish were lacking.

Walcott missed a further chance as the seconds counted down to full-time, and the hosts appeared happy to accept one point after a dour match. The Arsenal man found the net in the 90th minute but was flagged for offside.

The drama was complete when one final attack from the visitors was successful, as Lallana popped up from close range to steal three points.

TRNAVA, SLOVAKIA - SEPTEMBER 04:  Adam Lallana of England (obscured) shoots past goalkeeper Matus Kozacik of Slovakia to score their first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group F qualifying match between Slovakia and England at City Arena on September
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

It was a poor night's work from England, and it took them more than an hour to threaten in the game. Rooney looked lost in his deeper role, and the manager has much work to do if he is to turn the team into a viable force again. 

England lacked character and ambition and didn't deserve the win when all was said and done. But Allardyce's team showed perseverance and broke Slovakian hearts with one dramatic sucker punch. 

   

Post-Match Reaction

Allardyce said his team showed heart and had to win the match once Slovakia were reduced to 10 men, per FATV (h/t England's official Twitter feed):

England and Slovakia will feature again in Group F on October 8, when the Three Lions host Malta at Wembley Stadium, while the Slovakians travel to Slovenia.

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