• Thomas Barnes

England hit 5 as they start the WQ Qualifiers with a win

Goals from Calvert-Lewin, Sterling, Ward-Prowse and Ollie Watkins provided England three points on Matchday 1 of the World Cup Qualifiers.

In their quest to top Group I, England welcomed San Marino to Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night. It was a night that England were expected to win by a considerable number of goals, but the attitude and mentality of his players would be what pleased Gareth Southgate the most.

San Marino are FIFA’s lowest ranked side and have now lost their last 44 World Cup qualifying matches. So rather than the outcome, it marked a night that could see players stamp down their claims on why they should be selected for the European Championships this summer.

James Ward-Prowse fell into that category after netting his first England goal as well as substitute Ollie Watkins scoring on his England debut.

How England cruised to a comfortable win...

The pattern of the game was evident within the first minute as England instantly forced their opponents back into their defensive third. England’s first chance fell to Calvert-Lewin when Reece James squared the ball to the Everton striker who couldn’t adjust his feet to tap home from close range.

After being selected by Southgate for the first time in nearly two years, Jesse Lingard would’ve been desperate to get on the scoresheet. He found himself in space on the edge of the box and lined up a shot to bend the ball into the far right corner, almost identical to his strike against Panama in 2018. However, the outcome of this effort differed with San Marino’s star man Benedettini tipping the ball round the post.

The twelfth minute saw England miss another huge opportunity, a teasing ball by Mason Mount met the head of John Stones, who has been in great goalscoring form, and blazed the ball over from six yards out.

England finally broke the deadlock when Ben Chilwell, who had endured a lot of the ball in the opening stages, pulled a cross back to James Ward-Prowse who fired home his first goal in an England Jersey.

England doubled their lead moments later in the twentieth minute as a wonderful cross by Reece James picked out Calvert-Lewin who diverted his header into the back of the net comfortably.

Chilwell decided to ignore options around him as he started another England attack and fired a superb effort from thirty yards out. A strike that required the fingertips of the San Marino goalkeeper to prevent the ball arrowing into the top corner. A fellow Chelsea teammate, Mason Mount, then decided to test his luck from long range but Benedettini opted to use his legs to unorthodoxly prevent Mount.

For England’s third goal, San Marino were creators of their own downfall. The visitors tried to play out from the back but a misplaced pass from Cristian Brolli was capitalised quickly by the ever-dangerous Raheem Sterling as the Manchester City winger squeezed the ball in at the front post.

England were hungry for more goals as Calvert-Lewin’s improvised scissor kick saw the ball marginally fly over the crossbar.

As the interval approached, England nearly made it four as a blistering counter attack from a rare San Marino attack ended with Sterling chopping inside who picked out Lingard who will be asking how he hadn't scored with Bennedettini producing another spectacular save.

The second half began with a defence splitting pass from Chilwell who found Jesse Lingard, who had a simple task of playing the ball across the box for Calvert-Lewin to score into an empty net.

Ward-Prowse thought he had scored England’s fifth with one of his trademark free kicks that once again was denied by a full stretch Bennedettini who tipped the ball onto the post.

There was plenty of talk about which striker deserved to be selected in Southgate’s squad, but substitute Ollie Watkins proved why he should be in the Euro’s squad as he scored with his first shot on his England debut. A night to remember for the Aston Villa Striker who was playing for Weston-Super-Mare just six years ago.

What next for England?

The Three Lions will now turn their attention to Albania on 28 March before welcoming Robert Lewandowski and Co to Wembley as England will face Poland on March 31.

Written by Thomas Barnes