England 4-0 Andorra
- England hit four again as they ran out comfortable winners over minnows Andorra
- Jesse Lingard was on the scoresheet twice, while Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka also found the net
Every time Bukayo Saka approached the edge of the pitch during his warmup, there were rapturous cheers. And every time his name was called on the loudspeaker. And every time he touched the ball. After everything he has been through, it was a mark of support for the birthday boy, who escapes his teens today. In many ways, this World Cup qualifying win over Andorra was England’s homecoming from a summer that few will ever forget.
Conor Coady spoke glowingly about the centre-backs who played ahead of him on England’s journey to the Euro 2020 final. “I’m really close with Ty,” he said about Tyrone Mings when speaking to EnglandFootball.org. “He came into the team and performed so well and got two clean-sheets. He was incredible. Then obviously you saw Big H [Harry Maguire] coming back in and playing with Stonesy [John Stones]. Listen, we have some world-class centre-halves playing for our country. It’s incredible to see. They helped the country to what was a memorable summer.”Embed from Getty Images
It was the latest characteristic show of support and modesty, something that led to England’s assistant manager Steve Holland labelling Coady his player of the tournament this summer despite not playing a minute of football. But here he was, starting alongside his close friend Tyrone Mings — who he met while away with England — in the team’s first return to the national stadium since their penalty heartache 57 days ago.
“It’s something I can’t wait for, and something my family can’t wait for either,” Coady added. A qualifier against a microstate like Andorra might be a pointless addition to the football calendar for some. For Coady, it’s a first chance to play in front of his family at Wembley — on his sixth appearance. No one could tell him this didn’t matter.
Someone else it mattered to hugely was Jesse Lingard. Long seen as one of Gareth Southgate’s favourites, he was the closest player to reaching the Euro 2020 squad to be cut at the last second. But here the Manchester United player found the bottom corner when the ball went ricocheting around in the box with nearly 20 minutes gone. His link-up with another player celebrating his birthday — debutant Patrick Bamford of Leeds United — almost brought England an immediate, delightful second. Lingard chipped the keeper audaciously to find the net again. Just offside. It stayed at just the one — for now.Embed from Getty Images
There were half-chances for Reece James, Jude Bellingham and Conor Coady — a bicycle kick, naturally — but England’s second never materialised before the break. Only Jesse Lingard’s precise finish split England and Europe’s fifth-smallest country. Andorra is hidden away in a valley in the Pyrenees between France and Spain. And soon, they would have a mountain to climb.
After Bamford had blazed over with his first chance of the night, and Reece James had slammed the bar from range, the crowd were soon cheering. Not for a goal; for the introductions of three stars of the Euro 2020 campaign. Harry Kane, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish were on to try to add some much-needed impetus. They did.
Intricate play down the left between Grealish and Mount saw the latter win a penalty by drawing a clumsy foul from Christian García on approach to goal. Harry Kane was on the pitch for just this sort of chance. Into the bottom left corner it went, leaving goalkeeper Josep Gómes absolutely no chance. Kane’s 40th England goal tied him with Michael Owen as the country’s fifth-highest scorer of all-time. Not bad for a 28-year-old who only made his senior England debut in 2015.Embed from Getty Images
England’s players were back to the corner flag to celebrate the net bulging again within minutes. Saka fed Lingard. Lingard showed his marker the inside, and then used him to bend the ball into the far corner for a goal very much in keeping with some of his best for the Three Lions.
Then he let another player have the limelight. From Trent Alexander-Arnold’s short corner, an unmarked Lingard crossed cutely for Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal man had a birthday present to really cherish: a second international goal. He nodded into the corner and England had their fourth.
And that would be all. A convincing enough win eventually, but not a match that taught anyone anything much about England. That’s probably why the paper aeroplanes were back.