England Fire Five Past Hapless Andorra

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Andorra 0–5 England

  • Tammy Abraham and Jack Grealish were both on the scoresheet as England scored five in Andorra
  • They moved a step closer to qualifying for the World Cup with this victory

Never mind in the dugout, England had fire in their bellies. Thank goodness someone found a replacement VAR television screen for the one that burst into flames in Andorra’s Estadi Nacional yesterday. Without it, England would have had to wait a little longer to break the deadlock against one of Europe’s true minnows. But the technology was working just fine and overturned the on-field decision, allowing Ben Chilwell’s first international goal and the first of an England rout.

Five years and a day since Gareth Southgate became manager, England took to the field in the kind of game most of the country cared so little about before his tenure. The 51-year-old has reinvigorated interest in the national team. Nowadays it isn’t just the dedicated England away supporters who watch routine trouncings against the continent’s most forgiving opponents. Now people pause a gripping Netflix series in favour of catching one-sided England qualifiers. And now players are desperate to report to St George’s Park rather than returning to their clubs at the first sign of anything close to injury trouble. That is to Southgate’s credit.

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The credit for the first two of England’s five must, though, go to Phil Foden. Andorra are no Barcelona (to be fair, neither are Barcelona these days). But Foden looked like the star pupil at the School of Kevin De Bruyne or the School of David Silva here. First, an inch-perfect pinged pass allowed the lively Jadon Sancho to control with his back to goal and tee up Ben Chilwell. Chelsea’s left-back has had a tough few months and took all of his frustration out on the ball, which he leathered into an open net.

Foden then noticed Bukayo Saka’s inward run from the right, clipping the ball to him from a withdrawn position. Saka took the ball in his stride perfectly with a deft touch. He clattered the ball home and has now scored against the Andorrans both home and away in this qualifying campaign.

Southgate was a tad frustrated when previewing the fixture this week, recalling that Andorra’s time-wasting at Wembley last month had seen the ball in play for only 38 minutes. Although not as bad, their game plan remained the same here in Europe’s highest capital above sea-level. Andorra wanted to tussle and time-waste. Sancho and John Stones were getting peeved by all this and were cautioned near the break for rising to their antics. The break came at a good time. Andorra’s players were stoking the fire. England needed to put it out.

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It’s safe to say Sancho’s Manchester United career has started more slowly than he’d have liked. But in this sort of match, tucked away in the valley and out of the Old Trafford spotlight, he could find form, beat players and regain some confidence. Heck, even arrogance. He’d produced an assist and an audacious nutmeg in the first half, and added another set-up in the second.

He cut in from the right and spun the ball in for Tammy Abraham. Abraham of Roma and Fikayo Tomori of AC Milan are two Englishmen playing excellent football in Serie A at the moment, having both left their boyhood club Chelsea in the last year in pursuit of more game-time. Once Abraham had slid in to finish off Sancho’s cross, England had their third. And once England had their third, Tomori came on for his first cap in nearly two years.

Mason Mount and Jack Grealish were also introduced — adding firepower and impetus. Sancho and Jesse Lingard made way; what riches England have. Grealish’s touch is so progressive and his movement so fluid. Until, that is, the man with the golden calves is felled abruptly. Manchester City’s star signing entered the box, but Jordi Rubio was allowing no more than that. Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine — the first woman ever to referee an England men’s match — pointed to the spot.

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From the comfort of a bench much cooler than it was when roaring with flames yesterday, Harry Kane will have felt his heart sink at that moment. Strikers love scoring goals, less watching other people’s. Kane will have to wait until Hungary at home on Tuesday. James Ward-Prowse stepped up, was denied by a good Josep Gómes save, but steadied himself to volley in the rebound with precision.

“I think we knew we’d have a lot of the ball,” Ward-Prowse told EnglandFootball.org afterwards. “To give the ball to the attacking players was my job. It was a bit more of a disciplined performance from myself tonight to make sure that we sustained the pressure and sustained attacks. When you’re giving the ball to the quality of players that we have, it’s a joy to watch them at work. It was good to see them playing together well.”

As the deepest midfielder in a 4-3-3 system, Ward-Prowse’s second England goal will have felt like a nice bonus on the night. “It wasn’t maybe going to be a bursting run into the box,” he said about his goal. “That wasn’t my role tonight. The set-pieces and the penalties are a big facet to my game, and I managed to put it away tonight.”

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Set-pieces were also a big facet to Andorra’s game. In an attacking sense, almost the only facet. But while Andorra were trying to score rather than concede from their own free-kicks, that wasn’t made obvious at all in the dying embers of the game. Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone caught the minnows’ limp free-kick, and immediately saw an unmarked Grealish halfway down the pitch. An almighty throw made it to the City man, who ran at Joan Cervós and Marc García and tied them perfectly in knots. A clean tucked finish into the corner of the net brought England’s fifth of the night — and a belated maiden England goal for Grealish, who at times during the last six months has probably worried it might never come.

It was a fitting end to an evening that left all in the England camp smiling, including the travelling supporters: back on the road covering England for the first time in what will feel like forever. England negotiated the plastic pitch and negotiated the plucky underdogs. Now they must negotiate Hungary at Wembley in three days’ time. Albania managed to tonight, so no pressure.

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