Safely into the finals next summer thanks to last month's victory over Italy here, they were pressed well by minnows Malta but took the lead through Enrico Pepe's unfortunate eighth-minute own goal when Phil Foden's cross fizzed into the net off the centre-back.
England had penalty claims from Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford waved away — and Kane was even booked for a perceived dive — before they finally mustered the second goal in the 75th minute as Bukayo Saka squared for Kane to convert from close range.
Declan Rice had a stellar goal disallowed just minutes later when Kane, offside, was in the goalkeeper's eye-line as the ball went in. From there, England were home, hosed, but never inspiring in a 2-0 victory which matches the scoreline of Gareth Southgate's first game in charge, also against Malta at Wembley back in October 2016.
Dom Smith was Wembley Stadium to rate the England players’ performances…
Jordan Pickford 6
Malta played well, but their efforts on goal never threatened his clean-sheet.
Kieran Trippier 6
Combined well with Trent Alexander-Arnold on the right side. Deployed down the left flank after the interval.
Harry Maguire 6
Passed the ball responsibly and was good in the air when he needed to be.
Marc Guehi 6
Saw out the whole game and was solid. Could have got a little tighter to Malta's runners when the minnows did find themselves on the attack.
Fikayo Tomori 6
Turned out of trouble nicely on a couple of occasions. Played out of his familiar centre-back position at left-back due to Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell's injuries.
Jordan Henderson 5
Was a second behind quite a lot of the play. Some of his distribution was OK, but that is to be expected against the fourth-lowest-ranked side in Europe. An England squad player these days.
Conor Gallagher 6
Some nice touches in midfield, and a nice run, but replaced at half-time. Likely to feature again against North Macedonia on Monday night, though probably off the bench.
Trent Alexander-Arnold 7
Saw as much of the ball as any England player. While not everything came off for the Liverpool man, he was lively throughout and most of his long, raking passes were typically precise. A player unlike any other England have.
Phil Foden 7
Made plenty of forays forward with the ball, and one piece of skill in the first half to touch down Tomori's power-pass and guide it into his own path to run on to was genius.
Harry Kane 7
Was booked in the first half for a supposed dive, but really it was penalty, even if he did ham up the contact. Some outstanding touches to bring the ball under control. Very few chances of his own on the night — until doubling England's lead.
Marcus Rashford 6
It didn't really happen for Rashford, who in recent months had looked much more threatening in an England shirt than in the red of Manchester United.
Kyle Walker (Gallagher, 46') 5
Slowed England down in attack by turning back and passing backwards. Still England's best right-back, but it is fair to say the Manchester City could have taken more risks against this calibre of opposition.
Bukayo Saka (Tomori, 46') 6
Was bright when he came on, with one shot deflected wide by a defender. Assisted England's second goal with a cute pass into Kane.
Declan Rice (Henderson, 61') 6
Incredibly unlucky not to have scored a magnificent fifth international goal as VAR disallowed his superb strike due to an offside for Kane.
Cole Palmer (Rashford, 61') 6
Chased every ball down, as was to be expected on the 21-year-old international debut.
Not used: Johnstone, Ramsdale, Konsa, Lewis, Grealish, Watkins, Bowen, Phillips