England made it two wins from two in World Cup qualifying as a Mason Mount inspired performance gave them a 2-0 victory in Tirana.
Albania were an organised outfit in the opening exchanges as England looked to create opportunities, but it was a Luke Shaw cross that found Harry Kane to break the deadlock in the first half.
England controlled the possession throughout the game with 71% of the ball and it was the 22-year-old Chelsea midfielder who broke through and lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to double the lead and seal the three points.
Mount was starting his seventh international game in a row and made it four goals from 15 caps as he turned in a top drawer performance from a central midfield position.
Gareth Southgate lined his side up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Declan Rice holding at the base of the midfield with Kalvin Phillips and Mount just ahead of him. Mount did a great job of breaking forward and making third man runs, but also did his own dirty work in midfield too in what was a great box-to-box performance.
He completed 60/69 passes for an 87% success rate, but also made a game high three successful tackles made and won two of his three aerial duels too.
There was a level of maturity and quality in his game that was also shown in the win over San Marino last week, to show that he is truly taking to the international stage remarkably well. While the level of opposition isn’t the highest, it goes without saying that you can only play what is in front of you and is worthwhile remembering it was Mount who got the winner in England’s recent win over Belgium.
Mount’s constant inclusion at both club and international level had been met with criticism earlier in the season, but he has shown throughout the campaign that he is capable of performing well even with all eyes on him and he seems to thrive in that.
England manager Southgate addressed that criticism after the game, coming to his defence.
“I was saying in the autumn he is a very good player. Now Thomas Tuchel picks him, everyone agrees. When Frank Lampard did it, it didn’t count for some reason.”
While the comment is unlikely to win over any doubters or naysayers that both Mount and Southgate have, he has got a point. There was a lot of negativity around the relationship between Lampard and Mount but a lot of it was seen to be aimed at the player when in reality it was aimed at the manager.
Lampard’s refusal to use Mount in his best position due to his versatility was a hinderance to the team. He also just didn’t want to rest him which led to a dip in form and drew criticism also. As for Southgate, he had a tendency to bring Mount up out of nowhere when the conversation was based on another player – namely Jack Grealish – which angered fans.
What Mount has been able to do though is turn many of his naysayers into believers and his performances continue to rightfully earn him praise and potentially a starting lineup place for Euro 2020.