International Friendly, Wembley Stadium – England 2 (Alli 39’, Rooney 48’) France 0
England produced one of their most encouraging performances under Roy Hodgson as Dele Alli and Wayne Rooney scored to beat France 2-0 on a night that was more about solidarity and remembrance than it was about football.
With the memory of Friday’s Paris attacks far too fresh in the memory, there was a sombre feel to the atmosphere in the build-up to the game and both sets of fans were keen to not only pay their respects to the victims, but also show their togetherness at this difficult time.
The players linked arms for a joint team photo, the fans revealed a giant Tricolore behind one of the goals, and the whole stadium impeccably observed a minute’s silence.
And then, under a cloud of emotion, a football match kicked off.
In the event France never got going on the pitch and it was England who controlled the match from the start. The youngest England side since 1959 dominated midfield, looked composed on the ball and had threat on the break – none of which have been generally synonymous with England teams against high calibre opposition over the last few years.
A terrific goal by midfielder and man of the match Alli on his full England debut gave the hosts the lead shortly before the break, with the Spurs youngster winning the ball in the middle of the park and picking out the top-corner from range (via a slight deflection).
And it was Alli again who won the ball in midfield to set up England’s second shortly after the interval. The midfielder was too strong for Paul Pogba, sentRaheem Sterling away quickly down the left, and the Manchester City wide man then teed it up perfectly for Rooney to smash home goal number 51 of his international career.
That was about the last of the meaningful action, as both teams traded half-pace punches for the remainder of the 90 minutes, and the two sets of players and coaching staff embraced on the final whistle.
This was always going to be a night that was about much more than just football
1’ – SOLIDARITY – Wembley reverberates to the sound of La Marseillaise before the two groups of players link arms for a combined team photo. The stadium will now fall silent to remember those who lost their lives…
19’ – CHANCE – That’s a moment that Dele Alli will want to forget. Picked out by a gorgeous Kane pass on the counter-attack, a good first touch would have put the youngster through on goal. But his first touch was not a good one and the chance goes begging.
30’ – CHANCE – Another great Kane pass picks out Rooney on the counter-attack, but the captain slices across his shot and it fizzes marginally wide of the target. That was comfortably England’s best attempt of the game so far.
39’ – GOAL – Dele Alli scores on his full England debut to put his country 1-0 up. It’s a peach of a strike from outside the area, dipping over Lloris via a slight deflection off Koscielny and finding the top corner.
40’ – CHANCE – Kane goes close to doubling England’s advantage, but Lloris gets down sharply at his near post to make a strong save. England have woken up and then some.
47’ – GOAL – Wayne Rooney volleys England into a 2-0 lead, getting on the end of a dinked Sterling cross and hammering his shot beyond Lloris.
50’ – CLOSE! – A Harry Kane screamer very nearly picks out the top corner, taking a lick of paint with it as it skims past the post. That would have been a quite ridiculous goal and the confidence is visibly growing in the England side right now. The circumstances may be a little strange, but this has been a terrific performance from Roy Hodgson’s team.
64’ – SAVE – Jack Butland makes a top save to deny Martial after more ridiculous skill from Pogba opened up the England defence.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dele Alli (England) – The young midfielder was a revelation, breaking forward at every opportunity while still displaying the work-rate and physical attributes necessary to shield the England defence well. His goal was sublime, but it was the tackle that earned him the opportunity that was arguably even more impressive. And he was at it again for England’s second, robbing possession off a midfielder worth £60m if reports are to be believed, to sum up his impressive performance in one instant. It’s not often that players with such a combination of talent and desire come through for England, and the decision to call him up so early has been completely vindicated. Not that we’re getting carried away or anything…
This was a night for football to be proud of. The shows of unity between the players, the signing of the French national anthem by the English fans, the Tricolore lighting up Wembley Stadium for the entire evening. Those moments showed just how important sport is in bringing us together in difficult times. Football very rarely has reason to feel proud of its impact on society, but tonight was one of those rare occasions and credit goes to every single person who travelled to Wembley for the game.