It didn’t offer the stat-padding that had been widely expected, but England’s 4-0 win over Andorra did bring a few bright spots that will at least give Gareth Southgate a bit more to consider.
Jesse Lingard scored his first international goal in almost three years before following it with a second. Jude Bellingham was given another game to grow into what is surely going to be a central role in the future of this England team. If it wasn’t quite a goalfest, though, it was a carnival atmosphere as England’s return to Wembley for the first time since the Euro 2020 final involved thousands of kids attending.
The only tinge of debate is that Southgate did have to bring on three of his biggest stars at 1-0 to just make absolutely sure, especially after his team went ahead so early. A few starters might regret wasting the chance to improve their scoring record – not least debutant Patrick Bamford.
The opening goal was the sort that seemed so typical of these games, as Andorra were simply overwhelmed. In one of the few moments when it looked like an attack may be on for the visitors, Tyrone Mings just stepped in to win the ball and set England on their way. Bukayo Saka crossed for the ball to come back for Lingard, who fired an awkward shot into the bottom corner.
It was still novel for the Manchester United midfielder, as he hit his first international goal since November 2018, with another to follow.
Lingard then conspicuously performed Cristiano Ronaldo’s celebration, albeit with the twist of forming his own initials with his thumbs at the end.
The Portuguese doesn’t see matches against Andorra as worth resting for in the way Southgate evidently does. Ronaldo has often insisted in playing in them, precisely because these games are how you become the all-time international top scorer. He has six goals in three games against Andorra. It’s impossible not to imagine someone as goal-hungry as Kane itching to get on, even making eyes at Southgate about it, and it will no doubt come as some small disappointment to Bamford that he didn’t claim a first international goal to go with his cap. He offered good build-up play and came close to one cross, before snatching at a second-half opportunity.
At the same time, Andorra aren’t as easy to stamp on as is often anticipated.
They are not typical minnows in that regard.
Their experience in exactly these kind of games means they have become relatively good at putting up a defensive block, and any bigger beatings usually come when they tire later in games.
There was still a slight feeling that some of England’s starters felt this was such a good opportunity to claim goals that they were actually rushing some of their attacking play. Southgate’s side weren’t as precise as you would normally expect, even as they were inevitably playing much higher up the pitch.
That can’t really be said about the 18-year-old Bellingham, though. He was excellent during his time on the pitch, and only heightened the excitement about eventually seeing him for England in the centre in a proper big game. The nature of this match meant it wasn’t really one to judge Trent Alexander-Arnold in a more advanced role, although he was muted.
Bellingham was eventually taken off for Mount, in the same switch that also brought on Kane and Jack Grealish.
It did feel a touch cruel on Andorra, but there was doubtless an urge from Southgate to just get fully serious and get the job done.
England immediately got those numbers.
Mount was felled in the box and Kane stepped up for the penalty and his 40th international goal. That puts him 13 off Wayne Rooney’s record, although he should really have had another moments later only to hit the post with the goal at his mercy.
That unusually made it three bad misses in two games for Kane. England had found their flow though.
Lingard claimed his second of the game with a speculative shot on 78 minutes, before Saka claimed his second international goal on a day when such a show was made of showing him support. By then, there were only cheers.
England get back to a properly competitive game on Wednesday, away to Poland, but they have already rendered this group something of a procession.
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