England’s 1000th international in the end proved one of their easiest as they hammered Montenegro 7-0 at Wembley to confirm their place at Euro 2020. The build up was dominated by the bust up on Monday between Raheem Sterling and Joe Gomez, following on from the pair’s altercation in the Manchester City/ Liverpool game. The incident illustrated why international manager’s never want major league clashes on the brink of international weeks, although the Premier League wasn’t alone in doing so with Bayern playing Dortmund and Juve playing Milan last weekend.
Gareth Southgate had suspended Sterling from this game as punishment and the manager was forced into two more changes from the Bulgaria game with Jordan Henderson suspended and Ross Barkley injured. Southgate brought in Jadon Sancho for Sterling, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Henderson, Mason Mount for Barkley and one voluntary change with John Stones replacing Tyrone Mings at the hear of defence.
England almost got the perfect start when the influential Harry Winks picked out Sancho who almost combined with Kane after 4 minutes. However it didn’t take long for the floodgates to open when a deft ball from Ben Chilwell found Oxlade-Chamberlain who lashed home his first England goal since 2017. Montenegro’s Marko Vesovic tried to take the fight to England with a jinking run down the left, but that opened up Montenegro to the counter and Marus Rashford almost made it 2-0 on 16 minutes. But England only had to wait another 2 minutes for the goal to arrive as Chilwell crossed and Harry Kane pushed home.
Any lingering doubts about qualification were dismissed just 6 minutes later when Kane got free and nodded in Chilwell’s corner. Montenegro continued to probe on the left and Jordan Pickford was forced into a sharp save on 27 minutes as England sought to avoid the defensive slip ups of recent games. Tempers started to fray amongst the visitors and Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross was met by Maguire who’s effort was saved only to fall to Marcus Rashford to lash home the fourth. Before halftime Kane had his hat trick to move ahead of Alan Shearer in England’s goalscoring charts with a neat finish from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s cross.
With the game won at 5-0 England learned from their second half mistakes against Kosovo in September and kept the pressure on Montenegro. Southgate withdrew Kane and Oxlade-Chamberlain early in the second half to hand James Maddison his debut and Tammy Abraham an extended run out. Montengero’s disintegration became rapid as the game progressed, exemplified by a comedy own goal from Alexsander Sofranac. The introduction from the bench of Gomez lead to sporadic booing but England continued to press and Rashford’s late cross put in Abraham for his first England goal to wrap up a 7-0 win.
It’s been a strange week for England of patronage for their millennial game and debate over Gomez and Sterling. England appeared at the end of it to be united and showed a glimpse into a promising future as well as honouring their past. Now focus will switch to who makes the 23 man party for the finals as they roll up in Pristina on Sunday.
Featured Image: Sporting Life