ENGLAND 4, ANDORRA 0
Harry Kane joined an elite band of English footballers on the day England took another step towards the finals of the World Cup.
The Spurs striker scored his 40th international goal, only the sixth player to reach that landmark.
And Kane joins a list which also comprises Wayne Rooney, Sir Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker, Jimmy Greaves and Michael Owen.
What is staggering about Kane’s goalscoring exploits is that his has scored in each of his last 14 Euro and World Cup qualifiers since 2017 with a cumulative total of 18 goals.
There were also two goals for Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard and one for Arsenal’s Bukayo Sako in a victory that flattered to deceive.
It was one of those days when England had everything to lose and nothing to gain as they tackled minnows Andorra.
After Thursday’s fabulous win in Hungary, England had been expected to have a goal fest.
However, it didn’t turn out that way as all they had to show was a Lingard goal with 20 minutes to go as Andorra gave a spirited and gutsy account, aided by often having all 11 players parked behind the ball.
It required patience and, as Andorra wilted at Wembley, England made hay in the latter stages adding three further goals to make it five wins out of five to remain top of Group I.
If there was any criticism of England, they failed to make more of their total dominance – 88 per cent possession and 20 goal attempts as Gareth Southgate won a 22nd match at Wembley from 30 attempts, surpassing Sir Bobby Robson’s 29 in 34 games.Embed from Getty Images
The only Three Lions managers to win more at the national stadium are Sir Alf Ramsey (30 matches) and Walter Winterbottom (26).
However, there was another record as this was their 11th clean sheet in 14 games in 2021 to equal their previous best total in 1966.
Southgate admitted it wasn’t an easy night for his new-look line-up, explaining: “It was difficult for the players picked who didn’t have many games together. You have to keep moving the ball, keep being patient. It wasn’t an easy task.”
The England manager was delighted with the support Saka received after he was subjected to racist messages on social media after missing a spot kick in the penalty shootout in the final of Euro 2020.
Southgate said: “He got a fabulous reception before the game and during the game. It is lovely, you can see how popular he is with the team as well.”
“I hope closure if it was needed but I don’t think there is a player in that dressing room who thinks anything but positively about what he did all summer.”
Saka said: “It was the perfect birthday present for me. I am really happy we got the win, and I can celebrate my birthday with this.
“I am really happy with the reception everyone gave me. It shows how proud they are of me and that meant a lot. It means a lot, it really made a difference for me. Even now I can hear fans chanting my name. It means everything to me that I know they support me.
“This is what I dream about, playing at Wembley in front of my family and this crowd and scoring on my 20th birthday.”
Southgate made 11 changes from the side that started the 4-0 win over Hungary in Budapest on Thursday, clearly resting his A team in readiness for Wednesday’s important qualifier at second-placed Poland.
Patrick Bamford, who scored 17 Premier League goals for Leeds last season, made his Three Lions debut on his 28th birthday.
West Brom’s and former Manchester United goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was handed his competitive debut along with 18-year-old Jude Bellingham.
There was only a second England start in 11 months for Trent Alexander-Arnold while Saka, 20 today, started at Wembley, scene of his penalty heartbreak in the Euro 2020 final.
A banner was unfurled showing Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka with the words ‘WALK TALL’ after they each received racist hate on social media after each missed a penalty in the final of Euro 2020.
Andorra made changes from the side that started the 2-0 win over San Marino on Thursday.
However, Marc Vales, who plays in Norway’s top-flight, scored both goals and started at Wembley.
England’s stadium fits 90,000 people inside it. That is over 10,000 more than the whole population of Andorra, a measure of the enormity of the challenge confronting them.
There was one minute’s applause before kick-off to remember former England internationals Doug Holden, Terry Cooper and Paul Mariner who had recently died.
After making so many changes, England naturally took time to settle.
They eventually got into a stride as Saka had a goalbound shot deflected narrowly wide for a corner, though a goal kick was mysteriously given.
The breakthrough came in the 18th minute when Lingard scored his fifth goal for England, but his first since a strike against Croatia in November 2018.
Saka’s cross was headed out but only as far as the Manchester United player who drilled a show low to the left of keeper Josep Gomes.
And Lingard almost doubled the lead moments later with a cheeky chip as he ran on to a long punt forward from Bamford, but he had strayed offside.
Centre-back Conor Coady also went close with a spectacular overhead kick following a free kick which landed on the roof of the net. Had it gone in, it would have been a terrific strike.
It wasn’t the greatest spectacle and bored fans amused themselves making paper aeroplanes, directing them towards the pitch.
Despite enjoying 89 per cent possession in the opening half, England managed only seven goal attempts and one on target.
England kicked off the second half with a quicker tempo and were almost immediately rewarded.
Right-back Reece James burst forward and unleashed a 25-yard drive which crashed against the crossbar.
As no further goal was forthcoming, Southgate’s patience wore thin as he made a triple change after an hour as Harry Kane, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount replaced Bamford, Bellingham and James.
Moments later, Saka burst through on goal only for Gomes to sprint from his line to make a vital block as Trent Alexander-Arnold fired over the rebound.
Andorra’s spirited resistance was finally broken with 19 minutes left when Mount was bundled over in the box by Christian Garcia and Kane smashed home his 40th goal for England.
And that was soon followed by a third England goal as Lingard, without an international goal for almost three years, scored his second of the afternoon.
England added a third in 13 minutes following a short corner as Lingard crossed for Saka to head home from six yards, his third senior goal for England and the first England player to score on his birthday since Steven Gerrard in 2006.
Kane was denied a second goal in the last minute by a flying save from Gomes as his shot was bending in with England now firmly in the ascendancy.