Seventh Heaven on England’s Special Night
Helped by Harry Kane’s 19-minute hat-trick, England celebrated their 1000th match in felicitous fashion, earning their biggest ever win at the new Wembley.
On a week when preparations for celebrations ought to have dominated, what actually stole the headlines was Raheem Sterling’s altercation with Joe Gomez. Sterling was out of this one as a punishment – Gareth Southgate setting a precedent and a harsh one at that. Jordan Henderson was suspended for this, England’s 1000th international.
Fielding their youngest XI since 1959, the Three Lions kicked off, aiming to see off Montenegro and confirm qualification for UEFA Euro 2020. John Stones was handed a start and Harry Winks was also in, as were Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
With the likes of Peter Shilton, Paul Gascoigne and Wayne Rooney watching on, England were ahead as early as eleven minutes in. And the goal that put them ahead owed a lot to Ben Chilwell’s lovely floated pass. It landed at the feet of Oxlade-Chamberlain, who lashed the ball across the goalkeeper and wheeled away as it nestled in the corner. After all the injury agony, the Liverpool man could celebrate his first international goal in over two years and a first at Wembley since way back in 2012.
Seven minutes on, Chilwell was at it again – delivering a tantalising free-kick from an advanced position. Harry Kane let the ball simply glance off his head. It bounced into the net to double the home side’s lead.
Jordan Pickford had to be on hand to make a superb acrobatic save from a Montenegro set-piece header, before England reinstated their dominance and scored a third. Ben Chilwell earned his hat-trick of assists when his spinning corner was met and duly thumped home off the head of a certain Harry Kane. It was all looking a little easy.
England went four up inside 30 minutes when Marcus Rashford decided to get in on the action. A deep cross from Alexander-Arnold was headed on by Harry Maguire, but magnificently parried by the goalkeeper, Milan Mijatović. The ball fell to Rashford, who sent defenders sliding away into irrelevance with a composed first touch before banging the ball confidently into the far corner.
In front of some acclaimed Three Lions greats, England were making playing for England look suspiciously simple. Montenegro were looking incapable of keeping Southgate’s dangerous young force at bay.
When Trent Alexander-Arnold’s deflected cross landed at the feet of Harry Kane, he intelligently confused his marker, twisting his body and slotting the ball into an unguarded bottom far corner.
He’d matched Ben Chilwell’s first-half assist hat-trick with a traditional hat-trick – his third for England. And with that, the England captain had edged beyond some illustrious names in Alan Shearer, Tom Finney and Nat Lofthouse on the England scoring charts.
As the half drew to a close, the scoreboards inside Wembley Stadium read ‘England 5-0 Montenegro’.
Mason Mount was cruelly denied his first international goal early on in the second half when he was adjudged to be offside in tapping home the rebound from Kane’s shot. On second viewing, the call was much closer than it had first appeared. He may even have been onside.
On to make a perhaps belated senior England debut came Leicester City’s rare talent, James Maddison. Tammy Abraham, battering them in for Chelsea at the moment, also came on; goal-scorers Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kane gave way.
Things were slower in the second half. The smell of a corporate night out started to diffuse through the biting air. England’s players seemed a little distracted too. Either that or they’d decided a less frantic half than the first was what the doctor had ordered. The paying patients wanted more goals.
One eventually came on 66 minutes – apt, very apt. Marcus Rashford’s signature burst of pace out wide allowed for a menacing cross. Jadon Sancho, Mason Mount and Abraham all tried to stick the ball in. But it wouldn’t oblige. No matter though – Montenegrin defender Aleksandar Šofranac kindly thundered the ball off his own crossbar and into the net. 6-0.
Joe Gomez replaced Mount for some much-needed game-time, but England’s unforgiving fans proceeded to boo him in response to the events of earlier in the week. Gareth Southgate called that “wrong” after the match. “No player (should ever be booed), I don’t understand it”.
England’s final injection of tangible energy on the night made the score tick over from six to seven. Chilwell fed an unmarked Sancho on the left wing. The Borussia Dortmund man squared cutely for Abraham, who got in front of his man with great intent, applying the required finish with an outstretched leg to beat the keeper.
And so, the final chapter simply outlined that England had scored more than they ever have before at the new Wembley. To provide context would be to mention two separate meetings with San Marino and to date the stadium back over 12 years.
In their 1000th game, Gareth Southgate’s men reached the Euros and in doing so confirmed all their group games will be played right here at the home of football. Much to the delight of players new and old, past and present, it ended England 7-0 Montenegro in the side’s final home match of 2019.