England secured qualification for Euro 2020 with a simple seven goal victory over modest opposition, Montenegro, thanks to a Harry Kane hat-trick and the team playing like a team.
Why would you bring the two players missing back into a team that functioned like a team? You would only do it if you were obsessed with playing your favourites.
Henderson and Sterling will more than likely come straight back into the team, when they face Kosovo in the final game of the group qualifiers. Why? We know what they’re like and the group is done, why not put someone in there who hasn’t had a chance before? But no Southgate already said Sterling would be straight back in no matter what. Well, he wants to keep him sweet. Scared of the race card? Or scared that Sterling will have the type of hissy fit that saw him attack Gomez and leave him with a scratch on his face.
I mean you know it had to be bad for Southgate to even consider dropping him for a game. Bad enough that any other player would have been sent home for both games and would be lucky to come back at all.
England looked more of a team without Sterling. Everything not having to go through him, made others put in a better performance, there was link up play and he wasn’t getting in the road and clogging up the middle. Crosses were put into the box. Harry was actually played balls to score from.
That’s not to say the starting XI all had a good game.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was in for Henderson and probably lucky that he plays for Liverpool, or Maddison might have got his chance. The latter having been good all season, so far, while OC has just really come back into his club side and you feel if he wasn’t at that club he wouldn’t have come straight in. Either way, either of them would start instead of the suspended Henderson and both would a better starter when Henderson is available. Eleven minutes in and OC had more goals for England than Henderson has managed.
Chilwell chipped a lovely cross field pass to OC inside the box, one touched controlled it then he banged it in. The second a few minutes later again came from a Chilwell cross. This time from a free-kick, followed by a cushioned header, while being manhandled by two defenders, from Kane that has been underrated in reports I’ve read.
Chilwell’s hat-trick of assists was complete just another few minutes later. This time a corner that Harry wanted more than anyone to nod home. Chilwell had a far better game than his last England outing and was dangerous all night. Not having Sterling there getting in his way, the few times Sterling stays wide, helped.
The next goal was again only a few minutes away but came from the other side this time. From a short corner, OC crossed for Maguire to head straight at the keeper, from the save Rashford shimmied inside and curled an unsaveable shot into the far corner.
Harry’s hat-trick was again just minutes away. His best of the night and again it came from the right, another productive cross. Sancho, who also had a far better game than his last, played the ball wide right to Trent-Arnold, who put a lovely ball into the area. Harry’s first touch with his studs was exception, his turn to cut the shot back past the keeper and defender matched it. It doesn’t matter how bad the opposition were this was a brilliantly taken goal.
And with that Kane has moved to sixth on the all time England scorers chart, with 31.
31 from 44 games. Now Jimmy Greaves is regarded has having the best goal ratio of that top lot. If Harry scores at a goal a game by the time he’s played as many games as Greaves he’ll have the same number of goals. If he carries on at this rate (0.7 goals per game) if he plays the same number games as the current top spot, Ronney, he’ll have 84 to Rooney’s 53. If he just gets a goal every second game he’ll still end up with 69.
Yup, I got this one wrong when I thought him humping the ball high into the Old Trafford stands to waste time, after being offside, would be his crowning glory.
That was it for the first half. Though England didn’t have it all their own way. Montenegro had two really good chances. One from a header at a corner that required a brilliant save from Pickford after Maguire had just let his man go in the box. Then with one pass Maguire and Stones, who both looked like they’d clocked off, were parted and it was only the striker’s inability to score – he hasn’t for a 19 games and a couple of years for his country – kept a clean sheet as he kicked it straight at Pickford.
Stones. Another one that just comes straight back in with no justification. Flaky for England not much better for his club. Another of Southgate’s favourites.
Some people were expecting more in the second half. I can only assume they are people that have never watched England under Southgate and don’t know his Mr Mogodon half-time act. Yup, here they came again out after the break a different side. Where the first half was lively this was dead.
Add in the substitutes and it all just petered out – what mugs were booing Gomez?. They managed two more goals. Well “they” managed one, Montenegro managed another for them. And with that own-goal just after the hour the opposition moved to the top of the England goal scoring charts. It was the 54th own-goal England have benefited from. There was the seventh, to get the vidiprinter working – 7 (seven) – from Abraham with a Sancho assist.
As said Sancho and Chilwell had far better games. Harry looked more at ease. OC put in a decent shift in the middle. Mount just didn’t get into the game the way others did. Nothing seemed to work for him. Winks… well Winks passed the ball sideways. Very telling in the pre-match studio waffle, when Roy Keane gave him a bit of the old damned with faint praise. “Tidy” but does nothing. And that’s what he was. Get those passing stats up with another sideways do nothing ball.
England qualified, with a game to spare. But it’s the same old, same old. They can cruise through this but when it comes to the crunch, that central defensive pair is still there for the taking and all Southgate’s faults are still there. The faults that meant they got to the World Cup semi-final despite Southgate not because of him… and then Sterling and Henderson will be back in…