Wayne Rooney’s farewell to England turned out to be a game all about dynamic new talent as England brushed aside the USA 3-0 at Wembley. Gareth Southgate opted for a youthful starting line-up who had fewer caps between them than Rooney has to his name, whilst England’s fabled number 10 started on the bench.
The gulf in class between England’s undercard and the rebuilding Americans became evident in the opening minutes as England began overloading the flanks and Dele Alli almost headed in the opener after just 3 minutes. England penned the Americans in their own half as Callum Wilson fluffed a presentable chance and then almost won a penalty in the early skirmishes.
It took the Americans fifteen minutes to start putting meaningful possession together, when they did they inevitably turned to Christian Pulisic to create openings and he combined well with DeAndre Yedlin down England’s left. But it was Alli and Jesse Lingard who dominated the half, probing and pushing with give an goes, whilst Jadon Sancho teased the American defence with his trickery and clever passing.
But it was Pulisic who created the first great chance of the game when he teased England centre backs Lewis Dunk & Michael Keane and found the ball break to himself, only for Jordan Pickford to produce a top class save to smother his effort. But only two minutes later England went ahead when Ben Chilwell and Alli combined on the left, Pulisic lost track of the onrushing Lingard who curled in a sublime effort on 24 minutes, 1-0.
Two minutes later the game was effectively over as a contest when England worked the ball into the US box, Wilson’s pass dropped to Sancho who played a perfect delayed ball into the path of Trent Alexander-Arnold to lash home the second. England were content to consolidate at 2-0 and the US looked shellshocked as the half petered out.
Southampton ‘keeper Alex McCarthy came off the bench to make his England debut in the second half. England started the half with a bang and the lively Wilson put a testing cross in just seconds into the half. Then on 58 minutes came the moment everyone had come to see, the appearance from the bench of Rooney.
But England became complacent and struggled to find their rhythm after a raft of substitutions that saw the Alli and Lingard withdrawn. Pulisic found some fresh impetus and from a corner Bobby Wood should have pulled a goal back with a free header. But England soon regained their composure and the introduction of Ruben Loftus-Cheek provided a fresh attacking spark. A sublime long pass from Rooney sent Loftus-Cheek away and Wilson missed a glorious chance when he put Alexander-Arnold’s cross wide of the post.
But Wilson got his goal on 76 minutes when Eric Dier picked out Fabian Delph on the left and Wilson turned home his cross at the near post for 3-0. Rooney was inevitably at the heart of everything England tried in the closing stages, a turn and shot forced a save from Brad Guzan and he almost got on the end of a late teasing cross from the excellent Sancho, but there would be no 54th Rooney goal and England ran out 3-0 winners.
News filtered through that Croatia had beaten Spain in the Nations League, setting up a group decider when Modric and co visit Wembley on Sunday and Rooney took his leave of Wembley. This was ultimately a positive performance against a second class side with England illustrating their new-found strength in-depth with Alli, Lingard, Alexander-Arnold and Sancho all particularly impressive.
As for the Americans, their future is clearly wedded to the talents of Pulisic, their attacking play was neat and tidy and occasionally threatening but the lack of a goalscorer and a statuesque defence are major problems they need to address.
But the final word goes to Rooney who reminded us of his best days with England and that the Premier League’s loss is very much MLS’s gain. The dream final goal didn’t quite come but as England look to the future we were reminded of the best player from our recent past.