England vs Montenegro: Three Lions relish night of stat-padding to secure Euro 2020 spot unscathed

The Three Lions ran riot at Wembley and are now assured of playing in next summer’s tournament

Miguel Delaney
Thursday 14 November 2019 22:17
England's 1000th game in numbers

A night of celebration that ended, well, with barely a scratch.

England’s 1,000th ever international match predictably saw them secure a 25th tournament qualification, with a 7-0 win over a sorry Montenegro side. The only real points of note beyond mathematically making Euro 2020 were James Maddison’s debut, Tammy Abraham’s first goal and a surprising – and unfair – smattering of boos for Joe Gomez on coming on after the week’s controversy.

Appropriately, the entire night was thereby an exercise in racking up numbers and stat-padding.

Chief among those was Harry Kane hitting his third hat-trick for England – and second in successive games at Wembley – to also put him eighth on his own on the list of scorers ahead of Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney.

Such great figures were mentioned prominently on the night, and Gareth Southgate’s side duly put in an exhibition to match.​

Whether Montenegro were an opposition to match is another matter.

They were so poor that this often resembled a training game for England, meaning the genuine progress made as regards the working of the team and certain positions must be taken with a fist of salt.

Even allowing for that, it now seems abundantly clear that Southgate’s best full-back pairing are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell. The Leicester left-back actually put in something of an Alexander-Arnold performance himself, directly assisting all of England’s first three goals.

There were some points to note in the first of those as regards formation, too. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain again emphasised that he may well be Southgate’s best and most effective pure midfielder when fit. His opening goal similarly emphasised his impressive range of finishes.

Pulling Chilwell’s supreme cross-field ball out of the sky, Oxlade-Chamberlain then drilled the ball right into the corner of Milan Mijatovic’s goal. It was one of those of such purity that the trajectory barely wavered as it triumphantly found the net.

There was no need for such accuracy for any of the next few goals. Montenegro were themselves that sloppy, offering up so much space. Mijatovic and two of his defenders literally seemed to fall over for England’s third.

Chilwell still made the most of that space, mind, putting in two excellent crosses for Kane to score two close-range headers.

It was classic poaching stuff, that marked something of a break from his recent playmaking role with England, but was continued with a goal that came from his feet to mark the hat-trick.

That was also a hat-trick in a mere 19 minutes. Again, the numbers and records just kept coming.

Marcus Rashford made it 5-0 after Harry Maguire had his own close-range header saved, the striker’s effort then ultimately responsible for Aleksandar Sofranac turning the ball into his own net just after half-time.

England celebrate at Wembley

It had by then long been the kind of game for giving newer or underused players a run out, which saw Maddison finally make that long-awaited debut and Gomez come on to very audible boos.

It was an odd and unfair in and of itself, but made all the more ridiculous by the sight of Raheem Sterling applauding him on.

It wasn’t long until everyone was cheering again, mind, and because of the contribution of another sub. Abraham turned in his first international goal to continue his sensational season, and also increase some of the pressure on Kane. Or at least he would have done had Kane not reminded everyone of his scoring ability.

It was that easy for England it was difficult not to lose count, of both the score and the scorers.

No doubting the main number on the night, though, and it wasn’t 1,000.

It was 2020.

England secured their qualification on what was their last game at Wembley this decade.

The next competitive game here will be in the European Championships in June. That is now certain, and they’re there without a scratch

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