Jermain Defoe claimed his goal, claimed the headlines and helped England claim the points but this will not be an international fixture that lives long in the memory beyond being filed as: getting the job done.
Victory over Lithuania cemented England’s place at the head of Group F in their bid to qualify for next year’s World Cup and bringing back Defoe, four years after he last played for England, was justified in the predatory way he claimed his goal before the 34-year-old was then substituted around the hour mark.
England, though, laboured against a nation ranked 107th in the world – directly below Ethiopia, Mozambique and Mauritania – and although Lithuania effectively deployed a 9-1 formation and were not against some cynical fouling they also managed to threaten.
England manager Gareth Southgate made changes from the midweek friendly defeat away to Germany and the most significant was the inclusion of Defoe.
The reasoning was that against a team whose aim would be – largely – to defend then Defoe’s poacher’s instinct could prove vital and so it proved when Raheem Sterling easily beat Egidijus Vaitkunas - too strong, too quick for his marker - and pulled the ball back.
Defoe and Dele Alli were queuing up and it was Defoe who side-footed powerfully into the net for his 20th goal for England and his first since a previous World Cup qualifier against San Marino four years and four days ago when he scored twice. It was also Defoe’s first England goal at Wembley for seven years.
He came close before that when Kyle Walker intercepted and sprinted forward to find Adam Lallana who cut inside and slipped the ball through to Defoe whose shot, as he fell, was blocked by goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus.
Once ahead England should have pushed on and tried to but ran into the massed defence of their opponents who provided a scare on half-time as Nerijus Valskis latched onto a powerful header forward to himself nod the ball goalwards, past Joe Hart who came charging out of goal with John Stones scampering back to clear off the line. Valskis was offside but somehow the flag stayed down.
Southgate changed it up and there was a rapid reward as England did finally add a second goal with Lallana being picked out by Walker with his smart, first-time pass releasing Jamie Vardy – who had come on for Defoe – and he calmly steered his shot around Setkus.
Vardy should have claimed his second when he was put clear by another substitute Marcus Rashford but wastefully lifted his shot over the cross-bar. The scoreline remained modest, as was the performance, but England had the win.
and reaction to follow.
Full time: England 2 Lithuania 0
The game winds down pleasantly, everyone has had a decent time of it and one or two lesser England lights - Michael Keane, Bertrand, Rashford have done their claims no harm at all.
You can tell the game is at fever pitch, because the camera is scanning the ground for women. "Happy mothers day all you mums," says Clive Tyldesley.
Simonas Paulius, who almost sounds like he could be in the Bible or something, comes on and Vykintas Slivka makes way.
Rashford again with some great skill, slips it to Alli who shoots. Deflected. The Ox with the follow-up! He creams it... but at the keeper.
Rashford has made things happen in all departments since he came on. A deadly dead ball delivery now from a corner, headed just over by Alli.
Keane is impressing. Here he is cutting out a dangerous cross from Grigaravicius at the near post.
Lith have done quite a bit more in the second half.
although all these things are relative
Lovely ball from Rashford, who spots Vardy. The Leicester man tries to dink it over the keeper, but gets a little bit too much on it.
Couple of good bits of play from England, Lallana with a clever through ball using the outside of the boot, and now an excellent cross from Walker. Neither quite come off.
Eric has broken his Twitter silence.
Playing sunday storm not watching that rubbish anymore hart is a nutter, Playing poker havent even got football on useless the lot of them— Eric Bristow MBE (@ericbristow) March 26, 2017
Absurd handball from Rashford, who leaps in the air to flap at the ball. "You can't do that," says Glenn Hoddle. "A learning curve for the young man."
Call me a stickler, but surely an England international should have cottoned on to the whole "you can't touch it with your paws" rule already?
The Lithuanians are putting a bit more on the table now, though, and have had one or two decent thrusts.
Walker continuing to impress, feeds Alli, who shoots at the keeper.
nice bit of football from England. They're down the right, it is played in from Walker to Lallana, neat wall pass. Vardy strikes it from 12 yards. I think that might well have been his first touch.
England 2 Lithuania 0 (Vardy 66)
That's it! Vardy gets the second
And that ends it as a contest no doubt.
Defoe comes off, Rashford comes on. Sterling off, Vardy on.
Second half has been more even. Lithuania pressing forward more.
It's the key moment of the match, the news we have all been waiting for, the decision that changes everything: Novikovas off, Grigaravicius on.
Tum-ti-tum. Lallana with a break, Zulpa with a foul, referee with a card.
Nice effort at goal from the Ox, who shifts the ball onto his right foot and cracks it at goal. Beaten clear.
Lithuania's best moment! A break down the left, Fedor Cernych crosses it and Vykintas Slivka. It takes a deflection, for a split second Hart's, er, heart is in his mouth. But it's in range and he gathers it.
Bertrand, who has had a good match, crosses low and finds Sterling. Raheem should have scored! But he got the ball tangled under his feet. It only needed a touch at the back post.
Vaitkunas, who has already done one bad foul, is booked for fouling Oxlade-C.
Walker, who has also had a good match, crosses and Alli heads over. England are well stocked for attacking full backs these days, aren't they? You could add in Broadway Danny Rose, Luke Shaw if he gets better, Baines, Dier maybe, Glen Johnson.
The match is back underway, but the good people in the pound seats are very much still enjoying the prawn sandwiches.
Half time: England 1 Lithuania 0
Much as expected really.
England nearly undone by a sucker punch! Ball lofted forward, Lithuania's Slivka is A MILE offside but the lino for some reason ignores that. Stones and Hart at sixes and sevens, Hart comes out and fails to claim, Slivka heads over him, the ball is hooked off the line. No flag.
Lithuania, like an accountant letting their hair down at an Xmas Party and taking to the dancefloor, have tried a venture into the England half, and then got embarrassed and tried to revert to the more familiar environs of their own area.
Neat move flounders when Bertrand makes a sloppy mistake and lets the ball run out for a GK.
Good things so far: Defoe's finish, nice darting run and cross from Raheeeeem. Pitch looks nice. Mascot. That's about it.
Joe Hart kicks long, but England's battery of clockwork mice up front are unable to get a head on it. A considerable lack of big man-ness in this XI.
The many lives of Defoe, J
Crunching, mis-timed tackle from Linas Klimavicius. Catches Alli with a nasty one; luckily the Spurs star is okay.
Defoe has a crack! Well wide.
England doing a decent job. By keeping the ball moving, switching it, they are able to pull the plucky-ish Lithuanians out of position and, if they can get a decent cross or two going, this should be over by half time.
England continue to pour it on. The England half is a merely notional concept for the visitors so far.
Here's how the goal went down
Minor concerns as Sterling and now Dier both need a little treatment but neither man seems in serious trouble.
I'd imagine the same people questioning Defoe starting in a team for the future would complain about players picked on reputation not form.— Darren Lewis (@MirrorDarren) March 26, 2017
Told ya defoe i am the man— Eric Bristow MBE (@ericbristow) March 26, 2017
Well played Gareth Southgate for picking him. Long overdue, 2bh. A lesser manager picks Andy Carroll just because he's 'a big man'— Richard Amofa (@_RichardAmofa) March 26, 2017
Defoe. Excellent work from Sterling down the left, burns past a couple of challengers, crosses low with his left foot. Defoe has worked himself a little space, he opens up his body and slots it home with the right foot. Alli was also lurking for the tap-in, but Defoe used all his experience to make sure.
England 1 Lithuania 0 (Defoe 21)
Lallana with a through-ball, Defoe stabs at it first time. Good save keeper!
Said Egidijus Vaitkunas has, in the words of Glenn Hoddle "conned the referee" now into awarding a freekick against Sterling when he blocked off Vaitkunas.
Pattern is set. Lithuania sitting back asking England what are they going to about it...so far, not much.— Phil McNulty (@philmcnulty) March 26, 2017
Early signs: England will have learned a lot more from a friendly against world champions Germany than a qualifier v 107th ranked Lithuania.— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) March 26, 2017
England have a corner, not a lot comes of it, Dele Alli is spoken to by the ref for some minor tugging with Egidijus Vaitkunas.
Keane sprays it ou wide, Kyle Walker with great athleticism to cross it.... Defoe nearly in business there.
The OX, one of my favourites of this generation, crackles into life and tries a bustling run through the centre. One of the approx. 73 Lithuanian men on the 18 yard line gets in the way.
I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it
Great Escape theme from the England band. Again with the bloody war, just days after Dortmund. Brilliant. Well done everybody.— Neil Rowlands (@neilrow) March 26, 2017
All a bit 'Sideshow Bob stepping on all the rakes' from England so far.— Nick Miller (@NickMiller79) March 26, 2017
England setting up shop in the corner of the Wembley pitch that represents their left-wing/Lithuania's right back area.
England's best moment yet, Lithuania stretched. Lallana gets to the left, crosses... Walker has pushed up from right back! Cleared. Now Lallana has a very tame shot. Still, encouraging enough.
The England action mainly down the left, Bertrand is prominent. "I don't think Defoe has touched the ball yet," says Clive Tyldesley.
England attempt something from the training ground. It should have stayed there. A short freekick into the feet of Alli, he tries to flick it on for, I think, Bertrand but it goes awry.
"Good to see that they have worked on something, they just need to implement it better," says Glen Hodd. They've done a practice! Mind as well just hand that World Cup over now.
Everything in place for a typically meh England afternoon. The visiting team dug in, a back four and then five midfielders right back there as well.
Right. The formalities are done. England in white, Lithuania yellow. The visitors carefully reverse the bus in front of their penalty area. Alli the first England player to show, trying a dart down the left.
Respect for Joe Hart. Captain today but pushed Jermaine Defoe ahead to lead out England with little Bradley Lowery. Lovely to see— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) March 26, 2017
Silence at Wembley
in memoriam of those affected by the Westminster events.
Two thumbs up from this boy, Bradley Lowery. He's being shepherded by Jermain Defoe. When Jermain was Bradley's age, football was played between villages.
Mascots arranged in height order, very sweet.
Lithuania's tracksuits are rather snazzy. Their national anthem goes on for a pleasingly long amount of time.
I'm with Paul here
Have heard "impeccably observed minute's silence" once today and hope not to hear it again. Shouldn't need to praise people for that?— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) March 26, 2017
Joe Hart interviewed
talking about his overhyped and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to gee up the troops at the Euros.
"It was a real plus for us the way Michael Keane played in Germany," he says, by way of explaining why England had abandoned their back three for a back four today.
"I hope Graham would have understood how revered he was," he says of Graham Taylor and the tribute that will be paid later.
Sensible Lee, jolly good, always nice to see Lee.
Wrighty, bless him. And Ryan Giggs, a rose between two thorns there.
And here's how they think the team will play....
Afternoon Pougers. Looking very sharp.
I wonder who his guests are?
Let's get into the England spirit
By coating off the manager for his team selection. Why oh why Gareth has not picked the brilliant erm whatshisname, and the world-beating er thingy, I just do not know.
England haven't been much cop for a long time but Southgates team selection is laughable!.— Kate (@Holliebear80) March 26, 2017
Poor England team— callum ward (@callum_ward1) March 26, 2017
@England Scratching my head at this team selection - surely we should be building a team around Barkley— steve mcadam (@McadamSteve) March 26, 2017
Still dont get how Walker is in that England team over Clyne— Nathan Shaw-Langhorn (@langhorn_tbone) March 26, 2017
Well done to Mr Defoe
Still a goal threat at the ripe old age of 100, and well done also to Michael Keane, who makes his first competitive start.
England (maybe a 4-2-3-1) Hart; Walker, Keane, Stones, Bertrand; Dier, Oxlade-Chamberlain; Sterling, Alli, Lallana; Defoe.
Lithuania (maybe a 4-2-3-1) Šetkus; Vaitkūnas, Kijanskas, Klimavičius, Slavickas; Kuklys, Žulpa; Novikovas, Slivka, Černych; Valskis.
Imagine how happy the police officer must have been when they gave him/her this to drive. This looks way fun to drive about in.
Wow this scene goes on for ages
I had forgotten. Nearly as long as it is taking Gareth Southgate-Badger to get this team out. come on, Gareth Southgate-Badger.
Dr No is on TV.
A+ for the futuristic evil laboratory thing, A++++++ for Bond's handy disguise.
Here's an England great of yore
Gordon Banks diving for a dog pic.twitter.com/ugLnUZvZSh— Ftbllrs with Animals (@ftbllrswanimals) March 24, 2017
One of his successors, Joe Hart, will skipper the team today.
How's about this for a slice of lower league fried gold?
A Scunthorpe defender has just made the greatest block ever. pic.twitter.com/LPEnH3SHA2— Rich Arrowsmith (@RichArrowsmith) March 26, 2017
while we await the team news.
Jason Burt's Video Preview
Is here, and I commend it to you.
And in the meantime, you simply must see this
Sir Gareth of Southgate
Will name his team directly from these individuals
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Joe Hart (Torino, on loan from Man City), Tom Heaton (Burnley).
Defenders: Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), Phil Jones (Man Utd), Michael Keane (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Man Utd), Chris Smalling (Man Utd), John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham).
Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham), Michail Antonio (West Ham), Ross Barkley (Everton), Eric Dier (Tottenham), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Man Utd), Jake Livermore (West Brom), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Raheem Sterling (Man City), James Ward-Prowse (Southampton).
Strikers: Jermain Defoe (Sunderland), Marcus Rashford (Man Utd), Jamie Vardy (Leicester).
A lovely sunny Sunday here in London, perhaps the nicest day of the year so far, and we should all be determined not to let the fact that England are playing football spoi-- I do beg your pardon. I mean COME ON ENGLAND!
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