One of the ironies about Adam Lallana’s 95th-minute goal for England that secured their World Cup Group F victory in Slovakia on Sunday, is that the forward seldom lasts that long on a football pitch. When his club manager, Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, wants to make a change, it is invariably Lallana’s No 20 that lights up the board. During Euro 2016 previous England boss Roy Hodgson twice hauled him off and then dropped him as the campaign started to unravel.
For all his undoubted talent and creativity, Lallana has not been viewed as the player most likely to win matches at the death. All that may change, however, after he broke his England drought in his 27th international with a goal that he admitted “had been a long time coming”.
“I put pressure on myself to score goals and I knew it was only a matter of time. I had a few chances.” Given that Wayne Rooney first scored for England at 17 and Theo Walcott had bagged a hat-trick by the age of 19, 28-year-old Lallana is a late developer and he has long acknowledged that he has not scored enough goals, for England or Liverpool.
Curiously, his goals per game ratio has gone down the longer he has played, particularly since Liverpool paid Southampton 25 million pounds ($33.3 million) to sign him in 2014. Ten goals in 60 games and now one in 27 for England is not the return expected of a senior creative player.
“If I was a manager, I wouldn’t want a ‘nearly man’ in my team. Not a chance,” said Lallana earlier this month after scoring in Liverpool’s 4-3 win over Arsenal. “Of course it was nice to score that day but, trust me, the managers do not care who score the goals.”
New England manager Sam Allardyce would probably agree with that but Lallana did more than just grab the winner against Slovakia. For much of the game it was he, not Wayne Rooney, winning a record 116th cap as an England outfielder, who looked the side’s main attacking force as he switched wings and constantly probed a massed defence to try to force an opening.
In the end it was his wonderful technique that created it when he feinted past a defender to put the ball between the legs of keeper Matus Kozacik. Beyond his goal, Lallana also hit the post and linked a familiarly disjointed team together, combining well with substitute Dele Alli and bringing striker Harry Kane more into the game. “We keep plugging away and I thought as a unit we played brilliantly,” said Lallana. “Sometimes you’ve just got to stick it out until the last minute and thankfully we got the goal. It’s a great start.”