Andorra 0-5 England: Jack Grealish scores his first goal for the Three Lions in routine victory

They put out the fire on Friday, after it had threatened to engulf the far side of the Estadi Nacional. 

An Andorran welder working on a temporary television gantry got the blame for that. By Friday night, the affected parts of the plastic pitch had been relaid and it was only England bringing the heat. This time, the locals were powerless to douse the flames.

It was always going to be like this, of course. Andorra have only won eight games in their 25 year history and their chief contribution to Saturday’s game was to kick everything that moved and that did not often include the ball. 

England soared to victory over Andorra on Saturday as Jack Grealish fired and scored his first goal for the Three Lions 

Manchester City's £100m man finally fired for his nation, latching onto Sam Johnstone's long throw and firing into the corner

Manchester City's £100m man finally fired for his nation, latching onto Sam Johnstone's long throw and firing into the corner

Manchester City’s £100m man finally fired for his nation, latching onto Sam Johnstone’s long throw and firing into the corner 

Jadon Sancho was a menace all night and tore his marker apart, showing good signs as he stutters at Manchester United

Jadon Sancho was a menace all night and tore his marker apart, showing good signs as he stutters at Manchester United

Jadon Sancho was a menace all night and tore his marker apart, showing good signs as he stutters at Manchester United 

MATCH FACTS 

Andorra: Gomes, Jesus Rubio, Christian Garcia, Llovera, Marc Garcia, Jordi Rubio, Rebes, Vales, Xavier Vieira, Cristian Martinez, Sanchez. 

Subs: Emili Garcia, Iker, Moreno, Cervos, De Pablos, Fernandez, Pujol, Pires, Lima, Alaez.

England: Johnstone, Trippier, Stones, Coady, Chilwell, Foden, Ward-Prowse, Lingard, Saka, Abraham, Sancho. 

Subs: Rice, Mings, Tomori, Ramsdale, Kane, Henderson, Sterling, Watkins, Mount, Walker, Grealish, Pickford.

Referee: Kateryna Monzul (Ukraine) 

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If the 5-0 win was easy for Gareth Southgate’s players, it made for rather a tough baptism for Ukrainian referee Kateryna Monzul, the first woman to referee an England men’s team match.

If it was only what was expected, it did at least provide an interesting reminder of quite how different things feel under Gareth Southgate than they used to. England played their first away match against Andorra 14 years ago and it remains one of the ugliest nights in the team’s history. 

It was a night when just to be in the Olympic Stadium in Barcelona felt like being drenched with poison. England’s players were booed and jeered relentlessly by their own fans. The stadium was a bear-pit. England were at the stake.

They won 3-0 in the end but not before the squad members who had not made the bench had to be escorted from the main stand for their own safety because they were being targeted by some of the thugs who called themselves supporters. 

The fans called for Steve McClaren, the England manager, to be sacked and hurled insults at him throughout.

Afterwards, McClaren answered two questions in the press conference before he stormed out. ‘Gentlemen, if you want to write whatever you want to write, you can write it because that is all I am going to say,’ he told a room of journalists. 

As the England bus was leaving, McClaren spotted the Daily Star’s Brian Woolnough and asked the driver if he could run him over. It was a joke, through gritted teeth.

It was a low point, put it that way. The players were terrified of playing for their country and it was getting harder and harder to blame them. England were slipping further and further away from the summit of international football. 

Ben Chilwell fired the opener, also his first goal in an England shirt, after a never-ending VAR check confirmed he was onside

Ben Chilwell fired the opener, also his first goal in an England shirt, after a never-ending VAR check confirmed he was onside

Ben Chilwell fired the opener, also his first goal in an England shirt, after a never-ending VAR check confirmed he was onside

Bukayo Saka smashed his goal into the roof of the net, latching onto a stunning ball over the top from midfielder Phil Foden

Bukayo Saka smashed his goal into the roof of the net, latching onto a stunning ball over the top from midfielder Phil Foden

Bukayo Saka smashed his goal into the roof of the net, latching onto a stunning ball over the top from midfielder Phil Foden 

Foden ran the show from midfield, enjoying the space as Andorra sat deep. His dipping balls into the box were always a threat

Foden ran the show from midfield, enjoying the space as Andorra sat deep. His dipping balls into the box were always a threat

Foden ran the show from midfield, enjoying the space as Andorra sat deep. His dipping balls into the box were always a threat

That match was in March 2007, a qualifier for the 2008 European Championships. England didn’t even make it to the big party.

And so, yes, it was ‘only Andorra’ last night but it was still possible to detect in the vibrancy of the England performance and the talent, youth, optimism and confidence of the England players that this team will be heading to the Qatar World Cup, which begins in 407 days, as one of the leading challengers, a side that believes it can continue its recent trend of reaching the latter stages of the big tournaments.

England shone brightly against their modest opponents. Phil Foden was mesmerizingly good in midfield, Bukayo Saka was superb on the right side of attack, James Ward-Prowse was an accomplished deputy at the heart of the team, Ben Chilwell was a source of relentless energy and attacking threat. 

And this was a side that featured 10 changes from the last match against Poland. It was only Andorra but England’s performance still brought plenty of reasons to smile.

At a stadium with a capacity of 3306, set against a spectacular backdrop of the Pyrenees, England refused to allow any hint of complacency to creep into what was essentially a World Cup qualifier against a ski resort.

Showers of grit rose up from the artificial surface every time the ball bounced on it and England’s players will have plenty of grazes from being deposited on the plastic by a series of industrial challenges. But they will also be satisfied with the professional job they did.

England dominated from the opening minute and Andorra had to make a series of urgent defensive interventions early on. 

They have had plenty of practice at that over the years, of course, and when Foden drifted a lovely diagonal ball into the path of Chilwell as he rushed into the box, it took a brave, diving save by Gomes Moreira at the Chelsea defender’s feet to smother the chance.

Another ball from Foden found Chilwell unmarked in the area again soon after and England’s left back, who had already realised he was going to be liberated from many of his defending duties, should have scored with his header rather than directing it weakly wide. England, by the way, were enjoying 92% of possession.

Chilwell did not long to make amends. Another lofted pass from Foden in the 17thminute found Jadon Sancho ghosting in behind the Andorra defence. He controlled the ball and laid it back to Chilwell, who lashed it in from ten yards out. One of the assistants flagged for offside but after a lengthy VAR delay, the goal was allowed to stand.

Five minutes before half time, England went further ahead. Another brilliant pass from Foden released Bukayo Saka and he raced into the box and smashed the ball emphatically past Gomes Moreira and into the roof of the net. 

It was a classy finish from one of the diamonds of this England team, a player who seems to get better and better with every game.

Just before the hour, England went 3-0 up. Tammy Abraham, who has made such an impressive start for Jose Mourinho’s AS Roma side in Serie A, had led England’s line well in his first appearance for the national team for four years and now he got the goal he deserved. 

Sancho whipped in a cross from the left and Abraham got to it before the goalkeeper and diverted it expertly into the net.

Abraham spied the chance of a second goal when substitute Jack Grealish was brought down in the box 13 minutes from time. Abraham stood over the penalty spot with the ball under his arm and looked a little crestfallen when Ward-Prowse ambled up and took it from him. 

Gomes Moreira dived to his right to save the initial kick but Ward-Prowse got to the rebound first and hooked it into the net.

Fiyako Tomori contributed a cultured second half cameo and even Sam Johnstone got in on the act in the closing minutes. 

The West Brom keeper had been little more than a bystander but he made a fine one-handed save from Andorra’s first chance and then, a minute later, gathered a high ball and unleashed a laser-guided long throw that found Grealish breaking over the half way line.

Grealish raced clear and when he was caught by a defender, he cut inside and placed a precision shot past Gomes Moreira. Grealish had a goal, Johnstone had an assist. It was the perfect end to a good night for England in the Pyrenees. Higher summits lie ahead.

 

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