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All Things Footie | Thursday, September 6 | Jordan

Alpainia

I suppose we needed a decent scrap against someone, though England's insistence on hurrying everything and failing to slow the pace of the game at crucial points was worrying. There were times when instead of passing it around and frustrating the Albanians, something that worked admirably against Germany on Saturday, we were lumping it forward for everyone�s favourite Welshman to chase. Just about everyone was guilty of it, Beckham, Gerrard, Ferdinand, Campbell, in fact the only players not to adopt this newly discovered Wimbledon-ness were our lively pair of full-backs Gary Neville and Ashley Cole.

Once again Sven employed the tactic of telling the pair to run with the ball as much as possible - something that worked better for Neville last night but frightened the life out of the visiting North African defenders on both sides. They coped well with the threat however, snubbing out most attacks down the flanks and frustrating England into slightly more hit and hope tactics.

That said, Beckham and Gerrard's passing was sublime at times - though I still can't work out why Beckham can't take corners. On more than one occasion he played a short corner which all to quickly extinguished the momentum - a waste when set pieces seemed our most likely route to the back of the net.

Owen's finish was the only thing sweeter than Scholes' through ball before half time and the second half was notable mainly for a string of superb saves from David Seaman. Eat your words everyone who's spent the last 6 months saying he's past it.

Sol Campbell looked to have improved on Saturdays performance, his tackling was better timed and he got stuck in well in a couple of sticky situations. He was still caught ball watching on more than one occasion though and his awareness will have to improve if he wants to hold on to a tag of 'world class defender'. Rio Ferdinand's performance was disappointing though, for much the same reasons as Sol, the pair didn't seem assured in the air and were both beaten to balls that they should have won with ease against a poor Albanian forward line.

Left in the Cold

It seems no one likes Steve McManaman after an indifferent performance from Nick Barmby on Saturday, I though Macca might be given at least 45 minutes, especially against opposition that someone of his talent should be able to make fools out of. Not so, Eriksson stuck with Barmby who gave us an even poorer performance from Saturday, indifference being replaced by incompetence as the Liverpool man missed a glaring header and later failed to play a simple killer ball. McManaman hardly covered himself in glory when he did come on though, looking his usual lazy, half asleep self - executing his perpetual step-over 'trick' whenever he could. The left is still a problem.

Emile Heskey, as predicted, looked out of place in a team not winning 4-1 and despite trying hard could not impose himself on the game at all. His replacement Robbie Fowler, missing his nose plaster, was less than impressive until his goal, his touch and finishing deserting him at crucial moments - notably the weak shot from six yards that Strakosha tipped away without too much trouble. You can't have that much of a go though, his goal was a superb piece of individual skill and I for one would be surprised if Heskey undergoes a bit of a reputational down-grade in the next few weeks.

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