Sterling shines for England while Keane falters
England comprehensively beat Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday but had a tougher time against Kosovo. So who was hot and who was not?
The Manchester City winger is fast becoming one of the first names on the teamsheet as he dazzled in a Three Lions shirt once again.
Still, some questions are bizarrely being asked of him, presumably because of his past as a player who had all the talent but regularly flattered to deceive.
However, his City form has been spell-binding in the past two seasons and he is now regularly bringing that across to Gareth Southgate’s team.
Against Bulgaria, he was the main support for Harry Kane’s hat trick, pouncing on a defensive error to square the ball to the Spurs man for an easy finish, while later on finished a simple chance of his own
His pace caused numerous problems and the same fate hit Kosovo.
In the first half alone, he scored a header to cancel out the embarrassing early goal and set up three more as Kane and Jadon Sancho lapped up his devastating assists.
“World class” is surely only a touching distance away from the 24-year-old.
If Sterling can create, then Kane can finish.
None of his four goals were anything spectacular to write home about – two penalties, a tap in and a driven effort into the far corner, but they summed him up as a player – lay chances on for him and he will score.
The penalty miss against Kosovo was a rare blemish in the already remarkable international career of the Spurs forward.
He is already halfway towards Wayne Rooney’s international goal record tally after just 41 caps, and in his current form, you’d already be backing the 26-year-old to eventually break that benchmark.
The Liverpool skipper has always been understated in his style of play, and that often attracted criticism from fans who have described him as a passenger.
Yet there is a reason why he has remained a mainstay of the Liverpool team that won the Champions League and very rarely gets dropped by either Jurgen Klopp or Gareth Southgate.
He is as solid and reliable as they come, and those sort of players are essential to complement the Kanes and Sterlings of this world.
Another two good displays for England have further solidified his place in Southgate’s XI – it might be a back-handed compliment, but Henderson’s name now no-longer is surrounded by groans whenever mentioned for England. That is surely a positive sign.
Centre-back is a real conundrum for Southgate and arguably his weakest position in terms of cover.
John Stones is becoming increasingly injury-prone, while Joe Gomez faces a battle to get into[- the Liverpool side ahead of Joel Matip.
— England (@England) September 10, 2019
Keane was untested against Bulgaria but made an almighty error against Kosovo after just 35 seconds to present Valon Berisha with a gift.
He might have played himself out of contention with that mistake.
The other centre-back wasn’t perfect either – of all Southgate’s options at the back, Maguire is the one you would back to be the nailed-on starter.
However, the penalty he conceded against Kosovo was just a slight indication that there is a still a rashness he must cut out of his game to be considered a top-level centre-back.
Mistakes like that against the big boys will be terminal for England next summer.
Another international call-up, another snub from Southgate and Maddison must have been frustrated at being sat on the bench for the duration of those two games.
Both of them were essentially won after the hour mark yet Southgate instead opted to give Mason Mount his first two tastes of international football.
That must rankle among the Leicester man – not only is he two years senior of Mount, he also has a full year of Premier League experience on the Chelsea man.
Eligible for the Republic of Ireland, you say?