London (AFP) – England marked their return to Wembley for the first time since their Euro 2020 final heartbreak by seeing off minnows Andorra 4-0 on Sunday to preserve their perfect World Cup qualifying record.
Manager Gareth Southgate changed the entire starting XI following his side’s comfortable 4-0 win in Hungary in midweek — the first time England had changed every player since 1982.
But the home team still had far too much quality for 156th-ranked Andorra, even though they struggled to turn their dominance into goals on a warm September afternoon.
Jesse Lingard scored twice and substitute Harry Kane netted from the spot before a late goal from Bukayo Saka as England made it five wins from five matches in Group I on the road to Qatar 2022.
Southgate said it had been tough for his players to gel, admitting they had struggled to find fluency early despite hogging possession.
Manchester United forward Lingard, out of favour at Old Trafford, opened the scoring in the 18th minute — his first international goal since 2018.
He then raced to the corner and performed Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark spin-and-jump goal celebration in honour of his new clubmate.
England were frustrated for the rest of the first half, unable to cut through a packed Andorra defence, who disrupted the hosts with a series of fouls.
Southgate’s men picked up as they left off after the break, encamped in Andorra’s half but again struggled to create clear chances, with Reece James going closest when he hit the crossbar from distance.
– Lingard double –
Southgate made three changes with about half an hour to go, bringing on Mason Mount, Jack Grealish and captain Kane to replace the impressive Jude Bellingham, James and debutant Patrick Bamford.
Mount was bundled over in the box after fine work from Grealish and Kane made no mistake from the spot, doubling the lead in the 72nd minute.
Lingard had his second goal of the game six minutes later, beating Josep Gomes with a right-footed shot from the left of the area.
And birthday boy Saka headed in England’s fourth as the scoreboard finally reflected their total dominance of the game.
The Arsenal man missed a spot-kick in the Euro 2020 final penalty shootout against Italy and Southgate said he hoped the 20-year-old could now claim “closure”.
“He got a fabulous reception, before and during the game,” Southgate told ITV. “You can see how popular he is with the rest of the team as well.
“I hope it provided closure if it was needed, but I don’t think there’s a player in that dressing room that thinks anything other than positively about what he did all summer.”
Earlier, thousands thronged the approach to the stadium in the lead-up to kick-off but there was no repeat of the febrile atmosphere at the Euro 2020 final.
There was a visible but low-key police presence outside the national stadium, which was stormed by ticketless fans in July, and inside the ground there was a carnival atmosphere.
A crowd banner bearing the message “Walk Tall” was unfurled in support of Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Saka following the racist abuse they received after missing penalties in the Euro 2020 showpiece.
And the crowd of more than 67,000 cheered as both teams took the knee before kick-off to protest against discrimination, days after a number of England’s black players were racially abused in Budapest.
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