Quicker passing and more runs in behind - Southgate wants England improvement after Lithuania win

Getty Images

Gareth Southgate identified room for improvement for England after the largely forgettable 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over Lithuania at Wembley.

Veteran Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe ensured a fairy-tale return to the international fold when he broke the deadlock after 21 minutes, but the hosts laboured in their attempts for a second against opponents with limited ambition.

Defoe's replacement Jamie Vardy eventually made the points safe in the 66th minute and Southgate felt the Leicester City man - as well as Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford - gave an edge to England's play during the closing stages that they previously lacked.

The Three Lions were unfortunate to suffer a 1-0 friendly defeat to Germany on Wednesday after an enterprising display in Dortmund, with their boss acknowledging they fell short of those standards this time around.

"We'd have liked a bit more but I think really only one team came to win the game and it's always difficult to break down a packed defence as we did," Southgate told ITV.

"We moved the ball a little bit too slowly and we didn't really get in behind them enough until Jamie and Marcus came on.

"I'm pleased for the two lads who got the goals - [it's a] great story for Jermain. I thought Jamie added something to us when he came on, both with his pressing and with his runs in behind.

"We've got individual players who will play better than they did.

"There are times when you know you're going to win the game and you maybe don't hit the levels some of the players did against Germany."

Defoe's recall for a first cap since November 2013 came after injuries to Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and captain Wayne Rooney, and Southgate praised the 34-year-old for his input around a largely youthful squad.

"The bigger picture for us this week was his contribution throughout the camp. We've had a really good week," he said.

"The performance in Germany was a good one. We didn't get the result. The performance today was not as good but we got the points and it's job done.

"I thought he added to that and his experience around everybody else was very important."

One player at the opposite end of his career at the highest level is Burnley centre-back Michael Keane, who followed up his debut versus the world champions with an accomplished 90-minute showing alongside Manchester City's John Stones at the heart of defence

"There've been some good things – two very young centre-backs, which is a plus for us in the way they defended," said Southgate, who filled that position himself across a nine-year and 57-cap international career.

"[Keane] has been a real bonus. Obviously we knew about him but you're never sure how he'll cope.

"To make a full debut away in Germany and play the way he did... today, he was excellent."

England are five points clear of Slovenia at the top of Group F ahead of their nearest rivals' clash with Scotland in a late Sunday kick-off.

"It's in our hands because the next two teams [in the table – Slovenia and Slovakia] have got to come here," Southgate added.

"We obviously know that going to Scotland will be a difficult game and Lithuania on the plastic [pitch] will be a different sort of test.

"We've taken a step in the right direction. I'm pleased more about the culture we've started to set this week and the way we've started to work off the pitch."