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Football Reporting


England make light work of San Marino as Gareth Southgate celebrates 50 games not out – John Cross

No wonder Harry Kane wanted to play against San Marino.

This was more shooting practice than World Cup qualifier and England’s forwards could have feasted on more goals against the lowest ranked team in world football.

Kane looked on from the stands, wishing he was out on the pitch at Wembley taking his tally up to catch England’s leading scorer Wayne Rooney’s goal tally. After all, Kane is only 21 behind.

So much for Nick Pope getting a chance to impress in first choice Jordan Pickford’s absence as England could have played without a keeper and still not let a goal in.

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England had a field day against San Marino
England had a field day against San Marino

It really was that easy for England and is probably why two-goal Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Raheem Sterling were just queuing up in the penalty box for their chance to get in on the act.

England substitute Ollie Watkins marked his debut with a late fifth to put more gloss on the scoreline which could have been double figures with a bit more luck and better finishing.

It was a good night for Jesse Lingard even though he did not get on the scoresheet but his all round performance arguably made him England’s stand out player.

Teenager Jude Bellingham, 17, caught the eye after coming on as a half time substitute and looks years ahead of his time.

But otherwise it served little purpose for Gareth Southgate other than to parade a nice new blue cardigan. The England boss made waistcoats fashionable in 2018 and now cardigans might just make a comeback for the next World Cup.

This was Southgate’s 50th game in charge, there cannot have been any easier as San Marino are ranked 210th in the world, bottom of the FIFA rankings and hardly got out of their own half.

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It was a satisfactory night for Gareth Southgate
It was a satisfactory night for Gareth Southgate

San Marino keeper Elia Benedettini, who plays for Italian Serie C side Cesena, made a string of terrific saves and, despite being on the end of another thrashing, was comfortably their hero on the night.

Sterling missed two easy chances, Calvert-Lewin missed a sitter, John Stones scooped a ball over the bar from five yards and Jesse Lingard was thwarted by a terrific save from Benedettini.

And that was all before the floodgates opened in the 14th minute when Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse swept home Ben Chilwell’s low cross to show the strikers how it was done.

Calvert-Lewin finally got in on the act after 21 minutes when he headed in a brilliant Reece James’ cross as the Chelsea full backs really shone on their auditions.

It was 3-0 after 31 minutes when Mason Mount seized on a poor pass out from the back, played in Sterling and his shot was deflected in at the near post.

Sterling started the night as captain, was replaced at half time by Manchester City team mate Phil Foden and Conor Coady took over the armband in yet another big show of appreciation from Southgate for the Wolves captain.

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Lingard also made his point with a good all round display by setting up Calvert-Lewin for a tap-in just before the Everton striker was replaced by Watkins for his debut.

Ollie Watkins scored on his Three Lions debut
Ollie Watkins scored on his Three Lions debut

Watkins was the beat fairytale of the night as he fired home and his wonderful smile from his journey from Exeter City to Wembley was only matched by Southgate on the sidelines.

England have taken their first steps on the road to Qatar, it was more cakewalk than any sort of test but they probably should have ended up with a healthier goal difference.

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