In Depth

England hits and misses: Who impressed against Lithuania?

Gareth Southgate learned some important lessons about his key players in Sunday's victory at Wembley

England cruised past Lithuania at Wembley on Sunday with goals for Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy, but what should fans read into the result?

Football's pundits have been running the rule over the England squad and its direction under Gareth Southgate, with Paul Hayward of the Daily Telegraph saying "no clear judgment" is possible until the manager "is observed in some future second round or quarter-final".

But he adds: "For now, though, Wembley's diehards can at least observe some intelligent thoughts in action.

"This is the honeymoon phase where players and supporters ride a new approach and see where it takes them. Nowhere, has been the answer, too often, in tournaments. This one deserves a proper try."

The key personnel who get singled out are:

Adam Lallana

Liverpool's midfielder has established himself as "a crucial player at both club and international level", says Alistair Tweedale of the Telegraph, and has overtaken Ross Barkley in the England pecking order.

"Lallana has come a long way in the last few years, and continues to grow in importance to both club and country. His assist for Jamie Vardy at Wembley was a prime example of what he can do. Having come off the right flank into a second-striker-sort-of-position, Lallana's deft, disguised touch into Vardy's path took two defenders out of the game and laid a chance on a plate. With that, the game was over. He is now one of the very first names on Southgate's squad list along with the likes of Harry Kane (when fit), Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling."

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Arsenal's winger has not impressed as much as Lallana. "There is a view at the Emirates Stadium that in common with his compatriots Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere, Calum Chambers and Kieran Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain has not fulfilled his youthful promise - yet unlike his team-mates he is still doing enough to make the England squad," says Matt Hughes of The Times

Deployed in central midfield, the Gunner "did not make a compelling case to be retained".

Paul Doyle of The Guardian agrees, saying: "He was not bad but, all in all, this was an opportunity missed for him." 

Marcus Rashford

Oliver Kay of the Times says the Manchester United striker is an obvious talent. "The post-match statistics said he had created more chances in 30 minutes than any other England player had done in 90, but somehow it was hard to escape the feeling that if he was not considered ready to lead the line in the absence of Kane, the best place for him this week would have been with the under-21 squad," he writes.

Raheem Sterling

A burst down the right wing to set up the opening goal after 20 minutes offered a "fleeting snapshot of what Sterling can bring to this England, a flickering example of the reason why Pep Guardiola adores him", says Andy Dunn of the Daily Mirror.

Sterling bore the brunt of fan anger after Euro 2016, but has bounced back. "Sometimes, it will take a ballsy manager to stick with Sterling but, eventually, it should be worth it," argues Dunn.

Kyle Walker

"Several England individuals offered flashes of thrilling class throughout the game," says Paul Doyle of the Guardian. But aside from Lallana, Rashford and Sterling, Walker caught the eye as he "hurtled up the right wing from start to finish, threatening to dislodge the Lithuanian defence nearly every time and delivering a couple of exquisite crosses".

The Spurs defender's "marauding is becoming a regular feature of England matches and, if he continues to improve, he may finally get his name on the scoresheet".

Jermain Defoe

After making a huge impact with the opening goal, the veteran striker could find himself a permanent place in Southgate's plans.

"Aged 34, Defoe had been written off as being too old to earn an international recall, but the Sunderland man looks as fit and sharp as ever," says Matt Law of the Telegraph. "Manager Gareth Southgate has already made it clear that he will pick horses for courses and Defoe is the perfect poacher to play when England expect to dominate possession.

"With Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Dele Alli around him, Defoe does not need to worry about not getting the service. It had been four years since Defoe played and scored for England, but he could well be on the plane to Russia next year."

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