It’s now just a matter of hours until England take on Ukraine at Wembley in the second of their World Cup qualifying games, but with the dust now settled on the Moldova victory, and unlikely to be kicked up into the air again until the whistle is blown at the start of tonight’s game, there’s just enough time to look at the top performers from a routine opening group win.
Let’s look first at midfield, where the ever-industrious Frank Lampard found himself outshone by the performance of Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley. In what was a rare start for the young midfielder, Cleverley took the game by the scruff of its neck, acting as a source of both composure and energy in the middle of the park.
He was a constant thorn in Moldova’s side, pressing when not in possession, and pushing forward with confidence when with the ball at his feet. Moldova were not the standard of opposition through which to judge the long-term prospects in the middle of the park for the national side for this young man, but Sir Alex Ferguson’s comments last season, when the Scotsman expressed his regret at not being able to play Cleverley regularly due to injury problems, are starting to make more sense.
At the back, Leighton Baines, a target for United (second favourites to win the league in the Unibet odds) and Sir Alex, was a solid stand-in for Ashley Cole. Baines linked up well with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and was posed few problems by a rather limited Moldovan attack. Greater challenges will come for the Everton man, but a goal, albeit a deflected one, will have done wonders for those all-important confidence levels.
Finally, we must consider the exciting prospect that is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Much has been said over recent months about the Arsenal man, but he’s starting to prove that he has the consistency to go alongside his precocious skills. He may not yet be the finished article, but finished articles aren’t all that exciting to watch, are they?