England 4-0 Lithuania
Harry Kane scored just 79 seconds into his international career as the England team and a variety of Hodgson’s men broke records galore. A dismal Lithuania side had four unanswered goals put past them, as England won their first match of 2015.
England’s fifth qualifier was a first ever meeting with Lithuania, and a chance to stretch their winning record to seven matches. If they overturned the world’s ninety-fourth best nation, The Three Lions would have won their first seven matches in a domestic season for the first time in history.
Three and a half minutes into the encounter, Fabian Delph, already off balance and falling to the ground played a wonderful looping ball over the defence. Wayne Rooney snuck in between two defenders to put himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper Arlauskis. Rooney’s low finish hit the left post and rolled across the line and back into play. Ever so nearly, but not quite 1-0. Three minutes later, A perfect lofted ball from Manchester United’s Michael Carrick was neatly chested down by Raheem Sterling. Arsenal’s Danny Welbeck, starting ahead of the much fancied Harry Kane, picked up the ball and skipped past the last man before side-footing a shot that the goalkeeper parried back out into no-man’s-land. There to nod the ball into the net was the ever present England captain Rooney to edge even closer to Sir Bobby Charlton’s forty-nine goals with his forty-seventh.
The early goal meant that the tempo slowed down a notch. It was well over ten minutes later that England found their next clear breakthrough. Danny Welbeck scrambled to keep the ball in play, delivering a looping cross from the right by-line. It cleared the six-yard box and met Wayne Rooney. The forward seemed to be too far out to try a header but really had no other option so went for it. His dipping header bounced off the crossbar and away. The rebound was wildly volleyed over by Jordan Henderson, albeit with a small deflection. The half hour mark saw Lithuania’s best chance of the match, A well delivered cross was met by striker Matulevičius. Phil Jones defended excellently and so the Lithuanian man scuffed wide. It was looking like the half-time score was to be 1-0, until the final minute. A Henderson pass into the box was behind Danny Welbeck. The lanky striker desperately reached back and awkwardly shouldered the ball on target. It was to be an easy catch for Arlauskis, but the captain Tadas Kijanskas let the ball rebound off his knee and into the net. Welbeck jumped to the top of the goalscoring charts for the qualifiers with the most in Europe. The Wembley scoreboard read 2-0 at the break.
A defensive mistake led to Wayne Rooney getting lucky as the ball reached his feet in the second half. He beat one man before crossing to the left. There Aston Villa’s Fabian Delph struck a powerful, well placed volley. Arlauskis dived acrobatically to his left and impressively deflected the ball over the bar with his wrist. In the fifty-eighth minute, a beautifully placed Wayne Rooney cross fell invitingly to Raheem Sterling. The Liverpool man tucked the ball off the post and into the net for a third goal. It was clear that the team led by fifty-year-old tactician Pankratjevas were collapsing. Raheem Sterling had scored his first international goal. It had taken him a while. But he is still just twenty.
The Kane saga took effect with twenty minutes left. The young star from Tottenham Hotspur replaced Wayne Rooney for his first senior cap. Welbeck found Sterling in the box. The youngster crossed beautifully. There from a seemingly acute angle, to head the ball down and into the net was Kane. Under a minute and a half into his England career, the newest English prodigy had scored his thirtieth goal of the season and put England four up. That goal was in the seventy-third minute, and other than the introduction of Walcott and Barkley from the bench, there was nothing else to note on the match.
Danny Welbeck rightly gained man-of-the-match, and although there will be shouts for Kane to play ahead of him, the Gunner has proved exceptional when playing for his country. England’s qualification record remains the best in Europe.