Thursday 14 November 2019 10:21 pm

England 7-0 Montenegro: Kane hits a hat-trick to seal Euro 2020 qualification in style at Wembley

How quickly the drama of the week was forgotten.

The TV cameras may have picked out Raheem Sterling in the stands, but the rate with which the first-half goals flew in meant there was little time to discuss his behaviour and its ramifications.

That was exactly how Gareth Southgate would have liked it. Instead of arguments, internal rifts and squad harmony, we were left to reflect on a motivated, full-throttle and ruthless performance which turned the narrative on its head and qualified England for Euro 2020.

Even before kick-off there was excitement as Southgate named the youngest England starting line-up since 1959, with an average age of just 23 years and 255 days. 

Playing a side without a win in Group A, and with England needing just one point from their final two games, this was a custom-made opportunity to cut loose. They grabbed it with both hands.

Confident Chilwell

The fact it didn’t take England long to hit the front was no surprise, but the source of the opening three goals may have been. 

Ben Chilwell’s form has mirrored that of his club Leicester City, with the 22-year-old establishing himself as England’s first-choice left-back in 2019. Full of confidence, it was his left foot which supplied the ammunition for England’s early barrage.

First he skipped inside and floated a curling ball into the box for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to control and rifle in, before putting two set-piece deliveries onto the grateful, unmarked head of Harry Kane to make it 3-0. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: Ben Chilwell of England crosses under pressure from Aleksandar Sofranac of Montenegro during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on November 14, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Chilwell assisted the first three goals (Getty Images)

As well as providing dead ball expertise, Chilwell’s link up with the energetic Marcus Rashford on the left of England’s 4-3-3 was a constant threat.

Fill your boots

With many former stars inside Wembley on England’s 1,000th international match there was an obvious reference to history. Against a low-quality, disheartened opposition there was chance to climb the goalscoring ranks.

Kane was not to be denied, scoring a first-half hat-trick to make it 19 goals in 20 games for club and country this season, 31 in total for England, moving past Alan Shearer – and 24 as captain.

Despite Tottenham’s struggles this season, Kane has remained a dependable fountain of goals. Anyone doubting his quality is finding criticism harder and harder to justify.

Not infallible

As comfortable as England were – and a 7-0 scoreline did not flatter them – Montenegro did manage to fashion two openings which gave Jordan Pickford something to do.

The Everton goalkeeper stuck out a strong left hand to repel diving header from a corner and had to stand up tall to push away Fatos Beciraj’s attempt when one-on-one.

Qualifying matches are notoriously hard to draw firm conclusions from, and after such a dominant win such blemishes are essentially nit-picking, but, as the 2-1 defeat by Czech Republic last month highlighted, the defence is far from infallible. 

Young guns take over

While the majority of the goals, and the excitement, came in an action-packed first half there were encouraging signs after the break too.

England's striker Tammy Abraham (L) celebrates with England's midfielder Jadon Sancho (R) after scoring their seventh goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying first round Group A football match between England and Montenegro at Wembley Stadium in London on November 14, 2019. - England won the game 7-0. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)
Abraham and Sancho combined for the final goal (Getty Images)

With Kane and Oxlade-Chamberlain sent to the bench, two of the Premier League’s brightest talents entered the fray. Having bided their time, James Maddison made his debut and Tammy Abraham scored his first senior goal as England got even more youthful from the 57th minute onwards. 

After Rashford’s cool finish, the sixth goal may have gone down on the score sheet as an Aleksandar Sofranac own goal, but it was made by young guns. Rashford charged forward, played a one-two with Abraham, got to the byline and crossed towards Jadon Sancho. The ball dropped to Mason Mount, whose cross came off Sofranac’s knee and cannoned into the net. 

There was still time for another goal – one which will give Southgate particular heart. Chilwell recovered the ball, slipped Sancho in down the left and the Borussia Dortmund forward picked out Abraham at the near post to slide in the seventh.

Euro 2020 will come around fast and the depth, and youth, of the attacking options is encouraging.

Main image credit: Getty Images