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Slovakia vs England: Five things we learned from Sam Allardyce's first game in charge

The Independent logo The Independent 9/5/2016 Mark Mann-Bryans
Dele Alli of England takes on Jan Durica (L) and Marek Hamsik of Slovakia (17) (Picture: Getty) © Provided by The Independent Dele Alli of England takes on Jan Durica (L) and Marek Hamsik of Slovakia (17) (Picture: Getty)

England began life under Sam Allardyce with a late 1-0 win against Slovakia in their World Cup qualifier in Trnava.

Here, Independent Sport looks at five things we learned from his first match at the helm.

1. Same old brand new you

Had Allardyce taken over an England side full of confidence he could have applied the age-old mantra of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it', but in truth he would not be in the job if everything was hunky-dory.

Despite that he opted to field eight of the 11 who started England's humiliating defeat to Iceland at the European Championship and much of the negativity of the Roy Hodgson era was still evident. England failed to get a shot on target until the 64th minute - and even that was a tame shot-cum-cross from Wayne Rooney.

2. Rooney gives Big Sam reason for some deep thinking

Announced as Allardyce's captain, Rooney was surprisingly deployed in a genuine midfield role, rather than the number 10 position the new England boss had hinted at in the run-up to the match. The Manchester United man played in a deeper role at Euro 2016 and at times under Louis van Gaal for his club last season but has been pushed forward under Jose Mourinho. He failed at his 'quarterback' role here, misplacing passes throughout a mediocre first half but, after a brief cameo in a more attacking position, he was returned to the heart of the midfield as England laboured to break down 10 men.

3. Stones can be a rock for Allardyce's defence...

Handed only his second competitive start for England, Manchester City's John Stones had said in the build-up to the game that he knows when to play out of defence and when to hit row Z. Allardyce spoke on the eve of the contest about Stones needing to be a defender first and foremost, and the 22-year-old did really well alongside the experienced Gary Cahill. He did use the ball as well as he can occasionally but also kept Slovakia at arm's length with the type of defending Allardyce, himself a rough and tumble centre-half during his playing days, will appreciate.

4. And Dele can deliver further forward

Dele Alli's absence was arguably the most striking from Allardyce's first starting line-up, with the Tottenham man unquestionably part of England's future going forward. The 20-year-old was named PFA Young Player of the Year in a breakthrough season which brought about his England debut.

And his introduction here on 64 minutes quickly turned England into a much more positive and attacking unit - he is exciting and precocious and Allardyce will surely look to get him into his side from now on, putting Rooney's place in the team in even more doubt.

5. Pep may have been right about Joe Hart

Goalkeeper Joe Hart was allowed to leave England training earlier this week to fly to Italy and complete a loan move to Torino. He was then back in time to take his place between the sticks in Allardyce's first game, although the reasons why he was allowed to leave City in the first place were apparent once again.

New City boss Pep Guardiola wants his goalkeeper to play out from the back and he has backed Willy Caballero and new boy Claudio Bravo to do that better than Hart, who the Catalan feels lacks the ability to play a passing style. And Hart's first clearance here was a mis-kick straight to the opposition and on the half-hour mark he played one straight out of play. He was not tested by a single Slovakian shot, but the question over his distribution capabilities remain.


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