England 7-0 Montenegro: Rating the Euro 2020 finalists
The concern with England’s No.1 in games against opposition as weak as Montenegro is his urge to catch the eye when no one has glanced his way for a while. Handily, his centre-backs kept Pickford on his toes with two poor instances of defending forcing the Everton stopper into two first-half saves, the first superb one-handed stop to keep out Marko Simic’s header. So a clean sheet, one fine save, another simple one, and happily, no drama.
This second game of what has to be a sustained run of games in the England XI for the Leicester left-back and even more so than the trip to Bulgaria, this was always going to be about Chilwell’s attacking contribution rather than protecting Pickford. So three first-half assists, one for Oxlade-Chamberlain and two for Kane to put England 3-0 up, highlight a job well done. Chilwell was typically unruffled in his defensive work and he darted forward at the appropriate times, leaving space for Mount and Rashford ahead of him when need be or creating it with his runs inside off the flank. Danny Rose should be finished in this side.
His first start since June should have been comfortable one for the Manchester City defender who has had a torrid 2019. But a lapse in concentration allowed Simic a free header at Pickford’s goal before he and Harry Maguire were split in two by a straight run and a straight pass. Tyrone Mings deserved to keep the shirt after his debut in Bulgaria and the Villa defender will probably get it back after Stones demonstrated some frailty in the easiest game he might play all season.
Barring catastrophe, Maguire is assured of his place in Southgate’s XI so his first-half rick won’t harm his cause in the same way Stones’ might. Only Maguire knows where he was going when he parted from his defensive partner, seemingly covering a ghost run from the Montenegro right, but his unnecessary depth allowed Fatos Beciraj a free run at Pickford. Maguire should have claimed England’s fourth which eventually came after Rashford gathered the rebound when Milan Majatovic kept out the defender’s free-header from point-blank range.
The Liverpool playmaker was not as creative as Chilwell on the opposite side but he still sneaked in an assist with a deflected cross which landed at Kane’s feet for the skipper’s hat-trick goal. Southgate was clearly learning little from Alexander-Arnold while the full-back remained shackled by his defensive responsibilities so the England boss gave him 20 minutes in a more advanced role where many presume he will eventually end up. But for now, Alexander-Arnold has to compete for the right-back spot and Kieran Trippier sat on the bench will have seen little to make him fear for the place he has worked so hard to win back.
Tonight was made for Winks to put on a show since Montenegro neither pressed the holding midfielder, nor cut off his passing channels. His task was simple: get the ball to the five attacking players around him and never was he short of options, so we should not make too much of his 90 successful passes out of 95 attempted – only Maguire made more passes. But this stroll around Wembley together with his performance against Bulgaria must put Winks way ahead of Declan Rice in Southgate’s thinking, though we need to see the Spurs midfielder up against better opposition before we consider him a shoo-in for the Euros.
A frustrating night and a missed opportunity for the Chelsea midfielder. Mount had around half the touches and involvement of his team-mates in England’s midfield trio but gave it away twice as often. His first-half was best summed up when he directed a simple 10-yard pass straight out of play just before half-time. In the second half, Mount was denied his first international goal by a narrow offside call before playing a part in the comical sixth by mishitting a close range volley.
The Liverpool midfielder shone on his first England start for 19 months, and his international first goal since June 2017 came within 11 minutes. Oxlade-Chamberlain made it four goals in his last five starts with a sublime first touch the prelude to a splendid driven finish. Southgate has said that the 26-year-old would have been a starter at the World Cup had injury not robbed him of the option, but the England boss will probably already have the Ox pencilled in to his midfield for the Euros, especially if he plans to persist with 4-3-3.
The Manchester United attacker has got his groove back. England’s last victory in Bulgaria offered the first signs of his revival from a poor run of club form as a centre-forward and once again on the left of a front three, Rashford’s terrorised the Montenegro defence with a mixture of lightning directness and imaginative trickery. His goal offered a glimpse of the composure he is said to lack in the box, while the comical sixth was a direct result of his drive from the left flank.
At hat-trick inside the opening 36 minutes consisting of three finishes inside the six-yard box makes Kane England’s highest goalscoring captain with 24 goals. Overall, the skipper moved up to sixth on the all-time list with a couple of embarrassingly-simple headers before a beautifully-taken third, controlling a deflected cross before pulling his finish back across an onrushing defender into the far corner. By the time his hat-trick was complete, Kane had eight touches, only one more than keeper-cum-spectator Pickford.
With Raheem Sterling absent, this was Sancho’s opportunity to put some club struggles behind him and the Borussia Dortmund flier, England’s youngest player in their youngest starting XI since 1959, will reflect on the evening with mixed emotions. Winty asked whether his price tag represented value for a player who plays in flashes and that’s what England got tonight. Sancho started well, creating the game’s first chance with a low ball in but he had to wait until England’s seventh before being involved in a goal. We can’t forget that Sancho is still a teenager but Southgate will be looking for more evidence that he can knit his moments together with consistency if he gets the nod in Kosovo on Sunday.
JAMES MADDISON (for Oxlade-Chamberlain for 56)
A debut, perhaps belatedly, for the Leicester schemer and Maddison was clearly keen to show Southgate that he can fit in, rather than stand out. The midfielder got within five passes of Mount in half the time on the pitch but Maddison finished with a 68 per cent pass completion rate – comfortably the lowest among the England players.
TAMMY ABRAHAM (for Kane 56)
The Chelsea forward replaced Kane with a similar performance – minimal involvement but maximum impact when the ball dropped his way in the box. Abraham’s first senior goal was be one of the simplest he scores for the Three Lions but the Chelsea striker will be relieved to get off the mark.
JOE GOMEZ (for Mount 70)
Came off the bench to give Southgate a look at Alexander-Arnold in a more advanced role. Had little defending to worry about and did not misplace a single one of his 19 passes. Hardly an eye-0catching performance but after the week the Liverpool defender has had so far, that will suit him just fine.
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