Substitutes take Sterling’s chance
Having survived the kneejerk calls to drop him, Raheem Sterling needed a strong forty-five minutes to justify his place. However, in a game where England had few clear chances against deep, impressive banks of Welsh defence, the Manchester City forward did not take his chance. Six yards out and on the end of a lovely cross from Lallana, he desperately poked his effort over when it looked easier to score. His general play was no better or worse than the forwards who replaced him at half-time – Vardy and Sturridge – but he did not take his glorious chance. In contrast, while their impact on general play was unremarkable, the Leicester and Liverpool strikers very much took their solo chances. In a game where little was available to them, these two snatched their opportunities. Sterling, once again, did not.
Coleman out-changed by Hodgson
While criticism will inevitably come for not starting the two scorers, it is hard to take much away from Roy Hodgson after his changes were vital in turning the game into an England victory. While Lallana was again impressive, the withdrawal of him was part of a trio of changes intended to inject more direct running and pace against Coleman’s side. It was a change in tactic that was crucial in the winner, as the subs Rashford and Sturridge worked well with Alli to drive directly at the Welsh defence and force the late goal. The Welsh boss meanwhile may look back on his own changes with some regret. In particular, his withdrawal of Robson-Kanu – a constant physical thorn in the English defence’s side – gave the Welsh nobody to hold up their clearances, which allowed England throughout the second half to quickly recycle possession when an attack broke down and begin all over again. The Welsh can still take much from this game, but that change in particular was as costly as England’s proved to be rewarding.
Troubling matters of the Hart
For the second game in a row, Gareth Bale scored an impressive free-kick that was helped by suspect goalkeeping. Also for the second game in a row, Joe Hart played a frustratingly significant role in England conceding. Much has been made of Hodgson’s lack of defensive options at this tournament, but so far it has been the ‘keeper position where the headaches have so far been caused. It is always rare to see a national side change ‘keeper mid-tournament, and the City man was noticeably better with the pace and accuracy of his (thrown) distribution. However, with Fraser Forster a very capable deputy, Hart should be made aware that his place in the England eleven is less secure than that which he holds at domestic level, both for the sake of the team and his continuing form.