Harry Kane scored a first half hat-trick as England put on a ruthless attacking display to dispatch Montenegro and secure their place in next year’s European Championships.
Gareth Southgate had named the youngest England XI in 60 years on a night which marked the nation’s landmark 1000th international match. With past England greats looking on, the Lions were firmly on the front foot right from the opening whistle, pressing Montenegro high up the pitch and forcing their defenders into mistakes.
It didn’t take long for the deadlock to be broken; with just 11 minutes played, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrated his first start in 18 months by sweeping home from a superb Ben Chilwell cross. One became two when a simple Harry Kane header met the end of another Chilwell delivery. 7 minutes later, the Leicester defender rounded off a hat-trick of assists by combining yet again with Kane on a simple corner routine.
England showed no signs of holding up and had their fourth goal in the space of 30 minutes when Marcus Rashford capitalised on a shambolic Montenegro defence, following in from Harry Maguire’s close-range effort. The demolition continued as Harry Kane became England’s fifth highest goal scorer, completing his hat-trick and upping his all-time tally to 31 with a composed finish from Trent Alexander Arnold’s deflected cross.
Southgate’s men were in complete control throughout – with the front three of Rashford, Kane and Sancho being particularly impressive – though Montenegro did expose England’s defensive frailties on several occasions. Jordan Pickford was sporadically called into action, first with a near post save from Marco Simic’s header, and most notably when Fatos Beqiraq found himself straight through on goal, only for the striker to strike the ball directly at the Everton goalkeeper.
Chances were at a premium in the second half, being played at a noticeably slower tempo with the result already decided. Montenegro – still without a win in Group A – came out from the tunnel in damage limitation mode, but fortunately for the visitors England lacked that intensity and cutting edge that served them so well in the early stages.
The atmosphere around Wembley rose again as Southgate brought on the highly rated James Maddison and Tammy Abraham, both providing England with much-needed energy and guile to help them extend their lead. England were fortunate as a goalmouth scramble led to Alexsander Sofranac diverting the ball into his own net. 20 minutes later, the hosts had completed the rout as Abraham scored his first international goal at senior level, after a simple tap-in from a Jadon Sancho cross.
The introduction of Joe Gomez was met with a jarring chorus of boos from the crowd; a strong reaction to the much-publicised altercation between Gomez and Raheem Sterling days earlier, but even this uncomfortable moment couldn’t overshadow a historic day for England.
Whilst the opposition was of a poor standard, it’s no small feat to win a competitive qualifying match by a seven-goal margin, and it all bodes well for a successful Euros campaign next year. This attractive, free-scoring style of football is starting to turn heads around Europe and fans should be excited on what the future lies for this young side.
Hat-trick hero Harry Kane gave his post-match thoughts to ITV:
We have had one slip-up in the group and responded really well. We got the job done and wanted to put on a show in our 1,000th game. With five goals in the first half, I think we did that. We want to win that game away from home [against Kosovo]. We will enjoy this with one eye on Sunday.
England will hope to round off their qualifying campaign in Kosovo on Sunday night with a flourish, where more changes in personnel should surely be expected.