England 5-0 San Marino – World Cup 2022 qualifier: Debut goal for Watkins


A debut goal for Ollie Watkins, a first for James Ward-Prowse and a return to prominence for Jesse Lingard. Let’s not forget that this night at sorry old empty Wembley will always mean something to someone. An England cap will always be an England cap, a goal always a goal.

That apart, there was nothing to learn here. It is impossible to do so against San Marino. They are the worst team in international football and in all likelihood always will be. Their population of 38,000 is about the same as Lichfield. Why would anybody expect anything else?

On Thursday night they were as limited and as they always have been and Gareth Southgate’s England team duly trampled all over them.

Credit England, if you like, for their energy and hunger. They did not stop. But then that is the least we should expect from our national team.

Ollie Watkins finished England's demolition of San Marino with a low effort into the bottom corner

Ollie Watkins finished England’s demolition of San Marino with a low effort into the bottom corner

The Aston Villa man came on as a late substitute and scored a goal on his first senior England performance

The Aston Villa man came on as a late substitute and scored a goal on his first senior England performance

Ecstatic team-mates crowded around the striker after finding the back of the net late on

Ecstatic team-mates crowded around the striker after finding the back of the net late on

Criticise them, if you like, for their failure to score more goals. Some of their finishing was not terribly good.

But it’s hard to be at your sharpest when you know that one chance – taken or otherwise – will be followed by another one almost immediately. Why dash for the midday train when there is another at a quarter past?

England scored five in the end on a night when they could have scored that many in the opening ten minutes. Three in the first half by Ward-Prowse, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and captain Raheem Sterling and just the two in the second by Calvert-Lewin and, late on, by substitute Watkins.

That was the stand out moment of the night and was greeted with a huge smile by the Aston Villa forward. He has worked hard to get to this level – he was still at Brentford this time last year – and deserved his moment.

More broadly, England’s most notable players were Lingard – who deserved a goal but didn’t get one – Chelsea’s Mason Mount, and their two starting full-backs who spent the night dashing in to acres of wide space and crossing well.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was on hand in the box to latch onto Jesse Lingard's cross to score his second goal of the match

Dominic Calvert-Lewin was on hand in the box to latch onto Jesse Lingard’s cross to score his second goal of the match

The Everton man guided the ball at pace into the bottom corner leaving the goalkeeper no chance

The Everton man guided the ball at pace into the bottom corner leaving the goalkeeper no chance

Earlier, James Ward-Prowse went close with a sublime freekick which the goalkeeper managed to push onto the post

Earlier, James Ward-Prowse went close with a sublime freekick which the goalkeeper managed to push onto the post

After many attempts Raheem Sterling finally got his goal after cutting in from the left and having an attempt at goal

After many attempts Raheem Sterling finally got his goal after cutting in from the left and having an attempt at goal

The Man City forward was captain for the evening and was immediately congratulated by his team-mates

The Man City forward was captain for the evening and was immediately congratulated by his team-mates

Calvert-Lewin had opened his account with a close range header which was guided down into the floor of the goal

Calvert-Lewin had opened his account with a close range header which was guided down into the floor of the goal

The in-form striker peeled away in celebration after adding another England goal to his tally

The in-form striker peeled away in celebration after adding another England goal to his tally

For San Marino, goalkeeper Elia Benedettini played at a level beyond his team-mates and helped to keep the score down. He made four or five very good saves. His team needed the 25-year-old and on this evidence always will.

They played five across the back from the first moment and the plan was clear. Sit deep, work hard and then hope. They did that against Belgium not that long ago and conceded nine.

Here England found it easy to pass the ball through them and in particular inside the full-backs on either side. Southgate’s defenders Reece James and Ben Chilwell had a field day running on to passes from Mount and Lingard. The only surprise was that the first goal didn’t arrive until we had played almost quarter of an hour.

Chances ran like a river prior to that but were not taken. Calvert-Lewin applied an early air shot to a James cross, Sterling twice headed wide and then John Stones ran on to a clipped Mount pass and scooped a shot over from the six-yard line.

That one was a particular horror but England were ahead soon after. Calvert-Lewin, Mount and Chilwell built play nicely down the left and when the low cross arrived Ward-Prowse swept his first England goal across Benedettini and in to the far corner. His celebration involved an imaginary golf club. You will have to ask him why.

The San Marino goalkeeper had little to lose and enjoyed himself. Saves from Lingard and Chilwell from distance and then a low one from Lingard at close quarters were all excellent.

All around him, however, standards were lower. San Marino could not get out of their half or indeed keep the ball. The one corner they won was overhit and wasted.

Southampton star Ward-Prowse had opened the scoring on the night with a well placed effort inside the area

Southampton star Ward-Prowse had opened the scoring on the night with a well placed effort inside the area

The midfielder roared in celebration after  breaking the deadlock inside Wembley stadium

The midfielder roared in celebration after  breaking the deadlock inside Wembley stadium

Goals two and three arrived in the 21st and 31st minutes. Calvert-Lewin’s header from a James cross was impressive and then, when Cristian Brolli presented the ball straight to Mount, a quick pass forward to Sterling allowed the captain to cut inside and score from the angle of the six-yard box.

Southgate made four changes at half-time which was understandable. He had club managers to think about. It enabled 17-year-old Bellingham to win his second cap while it was not long before Watkins was on too.

By that time England had scored a fourth goal. Chilwell’s pass set Lingard free and his low cross was diverted in by Calvert-Lewin from inside the six yard box. It was amazing how, with so many San Marino bodies back in the penalty area, the scorer was unmarked. But he was.

There was only one more goal after that and it was a special one, Watkins turning nicely on the edge of the penalty area to score low through a defender’s legs to the goalkeeper’s right with ten minutes left.

Just the five goals will, strangely, leave England open to criticism from those who wish. But that is unnecessary. Ward-Prowse struck a post with a free-kick and Bellingham volleyed down and over.

There could have been more goals. There probably should have been. There weren’t. It doesn’t matter.

Scroll down below to relive how all the action happened with Sportsmail’s Danny Gallagher from Wembley. 

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