ENGLAND 7, MONTENEGRO 0
What better way for England men to celebrate their 1,000th international than with a resounding victory which booked their passage to the finals of Euro 2020.
Montenegro were lambs to the slaughter on a night to remember at Wembley where the highlight was a 19-minute hat-trick from Harry Kane while there was also strikes from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Marcus Rashford, Tammy Abraham and an own goal as England recorded a 569th victory.
It was England’s biggest win at the new Wembley and the first time they had scored seven in a home match since October 1987 when they beat Turkey 8-0.
It was more than simply the match as this was also about the occasion and a chance to reminisce as England reached this notable landmark.
While it was a celebration of the 147 years since England played their first international against Scotland in 1872, it was also an important night for the nation.
England, needing one point from their remaining two group games to qualify for the finals of Euro 2020, accomplished that mission in style at Wembley where, as it was a Thursday night fixture, it was well below capacity with a crowd of 77,277.
And it was achieved with the youngest side in England’s history with Harry Maguire, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kane the elder statesmen – all are aged 26. The average age was 23 years and 255 days.
After a problematic build-up to the match, it was a satisfying night for Gareth Southgate.
England’s manager, asked if that was as easy as it gets in international football, replied: “It was because we played so well in the first half.
“We’ve won a group that we should win comfortably and we’ve found a way of playing against those lower-ranked teams that defend in numbers. We’ve found a way to break them down which maybe in the past we haven’t.
“The quality of our attacking play in the first half was outstanding. We killed the game in the opening 25 minutes”
To illustrate the point, Southgate pointed to how long it took France to get a victory against Moldova.
In the wake of Raheem Sterling’s absence after his well-documented spat with Joe Gomez, that opened the door for 19-year-old Jadon Sancho to win his 11th cap.
England got off to the best possible start with full-backs Trent Alexander-Arnold and Ben Chilwell combining to released Oxlade-Chamberlain who, from the right of the box, fired home into the far corner, his seventh international goal.
It looked as though it might open the floodgates as Kane, Mason Mount and Marcus Rashford, superbly denied by goalkeeper Milan Mijatovic, went close.
It was merely postponing the inevitable as Kane doubled the lead in the 18th minute heading home Chilwell’s free kick from six yards.
And it was 3-0 in the 24th minute when Kane headed from a corner from six yards following a corner from Chilwell who provided assists for all three goals.
Montenegro, desperately poor defensively, were more of a threat going forward and Jordan Pickford produced a flying save to deny Marko Simic.
It was 4-0 inside half an hour as Rashford found the net with a terrific finish.
Goalkeeper Mijatovic pulled a great save to keep out Maguire’s header. The ball rebounded to Rashford who cut inside before firing high into the roof of the net for his ninth goal for England.
England made it 5-0 as Kane made it a 19-minute hat-trick, firing home an Alexander-Arnold cross from six yards, his 31st international goal. It was the earliest England had scored five goals in a game since November 1946 when they scored five against Holland in the opening 35 minutes in a friendly.
Kane also became the first England player to score a hat-trick in consecutive appearances for England at Wembley following his treble against Bulgaria in their last home international.
He also past Frank Lampard, Nat Lofthouse, Tom Finney and Alan Shearer in the goalscoring tables for England.
Southgate described him as an “incredible” player saying: “He is a number nine but also an outstanding number 10 and provides opportunities for others.
“When opportunities are there, he’s absolutely ruthless.”
Montenegro had another great chance when Falos Beciraj was put clean through, but Pickford stood tall to block.
Half time saw a number of England legends brought on to the hallowed turf for one more tome, including Paul Gascoigne, Wayne Rooney, Martin Keown, David Seaman, David James, Jermain Defoe, Des Walker, Sol Campbell, Tony Adams, Gareth Barry, Gerry and Trevor Francis.
Five goals to the good, the second half, not surprisingly, was somewhat anti-climatic with the feeling of job done which it was.
Mason Mount had a goal disallowed for offside as he struck after Kane’s shot was well saved by Mijatovic.
Southgate made a double substitution before the hour when Oxlade-Chamberlain and Kane may way for James Maddison and Abraham.
It was Maddison’s first cap as he became the 1,245th player to appear for England.
A sixth goal came midway through the second period when Aleksandar Sofranac put through his own goal trying to clear Mount’s shot. Rashford created the opening with a burst down the left.
England made their last change with 20 minutes left when Mount made way for Gomez who was jeered to Southgate’s disappointment.
“No player who appears to England should be booed. All the players are disappointed. He was got the support of the dressing room and we are all united,” he said.
Abraham made it 7-0 with six minutes left when he converted a low cross from Sancho for his first England goal. He also became England’s 430th different goalscorer.