Ollie Watkins scores his first goal for England.
The 2022 World Cup qualifier began with a routine and predictable victory over San Marino at Wembley Stadium.
The team, who sit bottom of the Fifa world rankings with 210 points, have never been an easy target for England, even when captain Harry Kane was on the bench, and they proved that behind closed doors in this one-sided qualifier.
England were trailing all game against San Marino and the only disappointment for manager Gareth Southgate will be that the team finished very poorly.
They should have done a lot more damage to their antagonistic opponents. The highlight was a late goal from Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins, who made his debut after being substituted.
James Ward-Prowse brought England into the lead with his first goal for England after 14 minutes following a low ball from Ben Chilwell, before Dominic Calvert-Lewin of Everton extended the lead seven minutes later with a header from a fine pass from Reece James.
Raheem Sterling, who was pressing for a goal from the start, added a third before half-time when his shot was deflected at the far post, and Calvert-Lewin scored his second eight minutes after the break with an easy finish past Jesse Lingard.
Southgate fell out of rhythm after four substitutions at the break, but Watkins came into the game with a sharp low shot and scored his first international goal after seven minutes when he came into the side for Calvert-Lewin and scored for a two goal lead.
One of San Marino’s standouts was goalkeeper Elia Benedettini, who used a series of brilliant saves from Chilwell, Mason Mount, Lingard and Ward-Prowse to give England the expected World Cup qualifying victory.
England goes berserk
England statistically played the easiest game in international football and although the points were scored in the expected manner, the victory could and should have been much more emphatic.
With 32 shots – 15 of them on target – they closed the gaps at will, but Sterling and Calvert-Lewin could score more, while Lingard will have to wonder why he couldn’t find the goal.
Ward-Prowse will be pleased with his goal, while James, who is a serious candidate for the right wing during the Euros, was a constant threat in his 45 minutes of playing time and delivered material.
Calvert-Lewin’s two goals, despite a couple of unfortunate misses, will give him plenty of confidence and cement his role as Kane’s replacement as he continues his smooth transition to the England national team.
Lingard, who has been so impressive since joining West Ham United on loan from Manchester United, showed Southgate what he can do in his first England appearance since June 2019.
However, he would have been bitterly disappointed if he had missed the mark. John Stones, another returnee, had no defensive work to do, but he could have scored a goal in the first half, which he rebounded over the bar from six yards.
Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Conor Coady was also not deployable in defence, but perhaps that was just an indication of how Southgate assessed his leadership qualities when he handed him the captain’s armband for the second half.
It was little more than an exercise in confidence building as England held 85%, almost entirely on San Marino’s half.
Burnley’s Nick Pope was substituted, but barely touched the ball. It was a cap and a clean sheet for this talented goalie, but nothing more.
It’s arrogant to dismiss San Marino and say they shouldn’t be playing qualifiers at this level, but it’s hard to see what England and manager Southgate have learned from this one-sided, soulless experiment against a team that was little more than cannon fodder.
They grabbed three points and qualified for the showdown with Albania in Tirana on Sunday.
It was a fairy tale – what they said.
England boss Gareth Southgate told ITV: We did the best we could. I was very pleased with the way we applied pressure when we lost the ball – it underlined the mentality of the team throughout the 90 minutes.
They’re obviously an opponent we have to beat, but I think they did very well.
There were many good individual performances, it would be hard to pick just one.
Mason Mount was excellent in the first half and set the tone. It was good to see Jesse Lingard enjoying football again – there was a lot of good stuff.
About Ollie Watkins: The first thing you saw was the reaction of the rest of the team. It shows how supportive they are – they know what it means to him. He soon became part of the group.
He is very humble, and it was nice to give him a half hour. For him, achieving a goal is a fairy tale, right?
Sterling brand 150. Career focus – Statistics
- England won their seven matches against San Marino by a score of 42-1.
- San Marino has lost 140 of its 143 World Cup and European Championship qualifying matches (D3).
- England won their last 19 home games in World Cup and European Championship qualifying. It scored 67 times and gave up six goals.
- San Marino only had to deal with more goals against Belgium (46) than in seven games against England (42).
- Raheem Sterling scored the 150th goal of his career. The goal of his career. He scored 136 goals for his two clubs Liverpool and Man City and 14 for England. Of those, he has scored 12 goals in his last 14 appearances for the Three Lions.
- For Gareth Southgate, today was the 50th game of his career. Played as England’s national coach. He won 30 of his first 50 games, as did Roy Hodgson. Only Walter Winterbottom and Alf Ramsey had more wins in their first 50 games as England coach (33).
- Dominic Calvert-Lewin became the first Everton player to score twice for England since Wayne Rooney against Croatia in 2004, and the first player with a streak to score twice for the Three Lions since William Bromley-Davenport against Wales in 1884.
- England took 22 shots in the first half, three more than San Marino did in their last World Cup qualifier (19).
- Ollie Watkins became the first Aston Villa player to score for England since Darius Vassell’s debut against the Netherlands in February 2002.
- Mason Mount created eight open-play chances in that match, the most by an Englishman since Glen Johnson against Andorra in June 2009 (also eight).
What’s the next step?
England travel to Tirana on Sunday 28 March (17:00 BST) to meet Albania in their next Group I match, before heading to the capital on Wednesday 31 March. March (19:45 BST) at Wembley against Poland.
- 2James replaced by Trippier after 45 minutes
- 5 stonesReplaced for Mingsat 45’minSave on 90 mines
- 9Calvert-LewinReplaced by Watkins in the 63rd minute.
- 10Sterling replaced by Foden after 45′ minutes
- 13 Henderson.
- 17 Tractor
- 21 Watkins
- 13GrandoniReplaced by Kekkaroliat 55’minutes
- 20HirschReplaced for Mularoniat 55’min
- 8Golinucc Replaced by Battistini after 71 minutes
- 21LunnadySubstituted for iar ià 79’minutes
- 9BerardiReplaced byD’Addariat 79’minutes
- 7 Giardia
- End of match, England 5, San Marino 0.
- End of the second half: England 5, San Marino 0.
- Tyrone Mings (England) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
- Tyrone Mings (England) commits a foul.
- Nicola Nanni (San Marino) is awarded a free kick in the attacking half.
- Offside, England. Kieran Tripper tries a through ball, but James Ward-Prowse is caught offside.
- Corner, England. Prepared by Luca Ceccaroli.
- The attempt failed. Christian Brolly (San Marino) right footed shot from over 40 yards misses to the right wing.
- Ollie Watkins (England) commits a foul.
- Dante Carlos Rossi (San Marino) is awarded a free kick in the attacking half.
- Goal! England 5, San Marino 0. Ollie Watkins (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box into the bottom left corner. Sponsored by Phil Foden.
- The attempt failed. Jude Bellingham (England) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Prepared by James Ward-Prowse with a center.
- Delegate, San Marino. Alessandro D’Addario replaces Filippo Berardi.
- Delegate, San Marino. Mattia Giardi replaces Lorenzo Lunadei.
- Rescue attempt. Jesse Lingard (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right.
- Kieran Trippier (England) is penalised after committing a foul.
- Luca Ceccaroli (San Marino) wins a free kick on the left wing.
- The attempt failed. Jude Bellingham (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the right. Set up by Ollie Watkins with a cross.
- Rescue attempt. James Ward-Prowse (England) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses the top left corner.
- Delegate, San Marino. Michael Battistini replaces Enrico Golinucci.
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