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England too strong for debutants Malta

Malta 0-3 England
Patrick Roberts hit two fine goals and set up another to help England spoil the hosts' final tournament debut and go top of Group A.

England too strong for debutants Malta
England too strong for debutants Malta ©UEFA.com

England are the early leaders in Group A of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship following a 3-0 win against hosts Malta.

UEFA final tournament debutants, Malta could not match the physical and technical prowess of an England team in their ninth U17 finals alone. John Peacock's side moved straight to the top of Group A, sending out an ominous warning in the process, thanks to two goals from the sensational Patrick Roberts and one from Adam Armstrong.

The Young Lions had a handful of players with Premier League pedigree to call upon – and how it showed. Roberts, of Fulham FC, was the pick, but captain Ryan Ledson, on the bench for Everton FC last weekend, and Armstrong of Newcastle United FC also stood out. England's No9, seven-goal top scorer in qualifying, took no time to make his mark, brushing the outside of a post inside the first minute.

England were immediately through the gears, none more so than Roberts, whose searing pace terrorised Malta throughout. It first paid dividends after a quarter of an hour when he skipped in from the right and unleashed a meticulous low drive which nestled in the bottom corner. Ten minutes later, England's tormentor-in-chief turned provider, pulling the ball back from the byline for Armstrong to slot in.

Malta's travails in possession were magnified by England's confidence on the ball, epitomised by their unflappable fulcrum Ledson. The deep-lying midfielder's influence was more low key than that of Roberts, who made it 3-0 just eight minutes after the break. Once more he cut in from the right, on this occasion icing the cake with an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net from outside the area.

Sergio Soldano's team, hitherto restricted to long-range attempts, had their best chance before the hour, but Kyrian Nwoko missed the target. Substitute Callum Cooke squandered two opportunities and Armstrong rattled the woodwork late on, but England had long since done enough.