London (AFP) – Harry Kane’s first half hat-trick secured England’s qualification for Euro 2020 in style with a 7-0 thrashing of Montenegro in their 1,000th match.
Even without Raheem Sterling, who was dropped by Gareth Southgate earlier in the week after a physical altercation with teammate Joe Gomez, England displayed the firepower that will make them one of the favourites for next year’s European Championship.
Kane moved into sixth in the all-time list of England goalscorers by taking his tally for the qualifying campaign to 11 in seven games.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marcus Rashford were also on target before half-time and Aleksandar Sofranac’s own goal and Tammy Abraham’s first at international level rounded off the scoring as Southgate’s men sealed top spot in Group A.
The Czech Republic, who inflicted England’s first defeat in a qualifier for 10 years last month, also guaranteed qualification on Thursday with a 2-1 victory over Kosovo.
After an unexpectedly turbulent week for Southgate as his decision to go public with the sanction for Sterling was criticised, there was some relief as once again his side tore apart mediocre opposition.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was making his first competitive start for England for over two years, during most of which he was sidelined by a cruciate knee ligament injury.
But he continued his recent goalscoring form for Liverpool with an excellent finish from Ben Chilwell’s cross to open the floodgates on 11 minutes.
Chilwell’s superb club form for Leicester saw him earn a start ahead of Danny Rose at left-back and a hat-trick of first half assists made his case to be first choice for Southgate at the Euros.
Kane had seen a few chances go begging before heading home a Chilwell free-kick and more awful Montenegrin marking gave the England captain an easy chance to double his tally from another Chilwell set-piece delivery.
Rashford was starting in the role on the left of a front three normally occupied by Sterling and looked in the mood to take advantage of a rare start in his favoured position for England.
The Manchester United forward smashed home the fourth after his club teammate Harry Maguire had been denied by a brilliant save from Milan Mijatovic.
That goal came from a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross and just like Chilwell, the Liverpool right-back’s delivery was a constant threat.
Alexander-Arnold was the provider again for Kane to complete his hat-trick as he was given the space inside the six yard box to control and fire into the far corner.
Kane was replaced by Abraham just before the hour mark, but the hosts were given more gifts from the Montenegro defence when Sofranac blasted into his own net.
Abraham has outscored Kane in the Premier League so far this season and even if his chances of taking the skipper’s number nine shirt are slim, the Chelsea striker made his mark by sliding home England’s seventh from Jadon Sancho’s cross.
That took England’s tally to 33 goals in seven qualifiers.
However, there was still time for the clash between Sterling and Gomez to take the shine off a fine performance as the Liverpool defender was booed by some of the 77,000 in attendance when he entered for a late substitute appearance.
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