England returned to winning ways with a dominant victory over Andorra to maintain their commanding lead at the top of World Cup qualifying Group I.
The Three Lions brushed the western European minnows aside to collect their sixth win in seven qualifying games after they suffered late disappointment against Poland last month.
Ben Chilwell capitalised on good work by Jadon Sancho to open the scoring in the 17th minute and Bukayo Saka latched onto Phil Foden’s sublime pass to double the lead shortly before half-time.
Tammy Abraham then extended the lead just before the hour mark as Sancho picked up his second assist, while James Ward-Prowse scored a rebound after missing an initial penalty won by Jack Grealish.
Manchester City ace Grealish then got on the scoresheet in the dying minutes with a brilliant finish having collected the ball directly from goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
As Albania won 1-0 at Hungary, England’s victory sees them maintain their four-point cushion at Group I’s summit.
Here are five talking points from the Estadi Nacional.
1. Sancho shines
Jadon Sancho has cut a frustrated figure for Manchester United in recent weeks, failing to score or assist since his £73million arrival from Borussia Dortmund this summer.
Gareth Southgate admitted concern over the 21-year-old’s lack of form but decided to persevere with the winger for October’s World Cup qualifiers.
This decision was swiftly rewarded against Andorra as Sancho teed-up Ben Chilwell to open the scoring in the 17th minute.
Sancho was bright on the left flank in the opening stages but he was most influential when drifting inside; the Three Lions’ first goal came when he collected a long ball on his chest before deftly flicking to Chilwell to hammer beyond Jose Gomes.
The United ace then set up Tammy Abraham’s goal in the second half with a whipped ball into the box which the Roma man nudged beyond Gomes.
England’s hosts may have been ranked 156th in the world by FIFA, but two assists will do Sancho’s confidence a world of good, as will Southgate’s continued faith in him.
2. Saka stakes claim
One player not short of confidence coming into the international break was Bukayo Saka, having grabbed a goal and an assist in the north London derby in late September.
And the 20-year-old looked a player in fine fettle as he collected the ball with the outside of his foot with his first touch and rifled into the roof of the net with his second to extend England’s lead in the 40th minute.
Saka’s movement for the goal was just as impressive as his finish and he is likely to continue challenging Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount for minutes in the Three Lions attack.
Of course, a special mention must go to Phil Foden, who ran the show from midfield in the first half and created Saka’s goal with a perfectly-weighted pass.
3. Abraham lives up to Mourinho billing
Tammy Abraham was richly deserving of his recall to the England set-up after a brilliant start to life at Jose Mourinho’s Roma.
The former Chelsea striker earned his seventh cap against Andorra, leading the line flanked by Bukayo Saka to his right and Jadon Sancho to his left.
With the hosts using a rigid back-five, Abraham spent much of the game with his back to goal, holding up the ball while his teammates surged up the flanks.
But the 24-year-old finally had his chance just before the hour mark and made it look easy, poking home as Sancho grabbed his second assist with a cross.
Abraham’s performance proved he can be a “monster of a forward” for England, just as Mourinho promised.
4. Grealish impactful off the bench
There was widespread clamour for Jack Grealish to start at Euro 2020, but Gareth Southgate had a plan.
He knew the sight of Grealish coming off the bench would strike fear into opposition defences – and this strategy worked to great effect, including against Germany when the 26-year-old assisted Harry Kane late on.
Grealish yet again made his mark during the closing stages against Andorra, first winning a penalty for James Ward-Prowse to score from at the second time of asking, then scoring a brilliant goal of his own.
Gareth Southgate will be delighted with the part Sam Johnstone played in Grealish’s maiden England goal, as it was his pinpoint pass which set the Manchester City man through to run at the tired Andorra defence.
5. Shutout caps professional display
With England huge favourites for victory ahead of kick-off, Gareth Southgate knew his side’s performance would be judged on goals scored and conceded.
While he would have liked to have seen Jose Gomes tested and beaten more often, the Three Lions boss can be pleased with another dominant defensive display.
Southgate’s philosophy revolves around having a solid foundation, as he showed at the 2018 World Cup and Euro 2020. This frustrated England fans once upon a time, but runs to the late stages of those tournaments has gradually convinced the masses it is the way forward.
So, Southgate will be pleased a largely second-string backline kept a clean sheet and will hope for more of the same as Hungary visit Wembley on Tuesday.