Maguire, Sancho and Calvert-Lewin fire England to morale-boosting 3-0 win over Ireland as Bellingham and Henderson debut
HE might not even be the hottest young English prospect at Borussia Dortmund any more.
But Jadon Sancho – with the £100million price tag and a host of Bundesliga records to his name – chose an opportune moment to re-introduce himself on the international stage.
Before his 17-year-old team-mate Jude Bellingham arrived as a second-half sub to become the third youngest player in Three Lions history, Sancho netted a peach for his first England goal in 14 months.
In this bright young England line-up Sancho was something of a veteran of 16 caps.
And it was Manchester United’s elusive summer target who effectively settled this friendly on the half-hour – after Old Trafford skipper Harry Maguire had headed the first.
Sancho has been disappointing for Dortmund so far this season, with plenty of talk in Germany that his head may have turned back home towards England.
Yet the winger had his head screwed on well here, all right.
This may have been a fixture devoid of true meaning or atmosphere but Gareth Southgate will have taken many positives from it.
Firstly, to see Maguire recover from his nightmarish performance here last month when he was sent off for two yellow cards within 30 minutes.
Then, he learned that, after all the debate around the issue, that Jack Grealish and Mason Mount can play effectively in the same England team.
It felt almost cruel that, given Southgate’s reluctance to use the Aston Villa playmaker, the England boss should choose to start him against the nation he snubbed – a little ‘look at what you could have won’ to the Irish.
Grealish had his moments, including an assist for Sancho’s goal.
But Mount, who has – for little reason – become a scapegoat in the clamour for Grealish to play, was better still playing in a deep midfield role.
Then there was Bellingham – older only than Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney among England debuts – who looked assured in his 15-minute appearance.
This was England’s first win over the Republic in 35 years, so it shouldn’t be sniffed at.
And a largely second-string side will have given Southgate plenty to mull over as he considers his team to face World No 1 Belgium in the Nations League on Sunday.
Last night’s opponents were supposed to have been against New Zealand before the kiwis cancelled what might have been the least eagerly-awaited international friendly in history.
Instead a chance to end England’s weird hoodoo against the Irish – dating back to the night when Gary Lineker scored the first of his 48 international goals in a 2-1 friendly win in 1985.
Yet the Irish are nothing like the force they were during the era of the late Jack Charlton – a man cherished by football fans on both sides of the Irish Sea.
There were players from Wycombe, Preston, Bristol City, Nottingham Forest and Norwich in Stephen Kenny’s starting line-up here.
It has not helped their cause that England had nabbed the two best Irish-qualified players of their generation in Grealish and Declan Rice, who was on the bench, saved for Sunday’s Nations League game in Belgium.
The Republic will not be at next summer’s Euros, having lost a penalty shoot-out to Slovakia in a play-off last month.
England were in blue, Ireland in white, in keeping with the dressdown vibe of this low-key fixture.
Without Rice, England looked potentially lightweight in central midfield – Harry Winks, who cannot get a minute in the Premier League for Tottenham, alongside Mount, who usually plays further forward.
Yet both were excellent on the ball once England got into their stride.
Maguire, who will be suspended on Sunday, captained England from the start of a match for the first time and needed to be alert on a couple of occasions as Ireland began brightly.
Then after a quarter of an hour, England launched their first meaningful attack and were soon on the scoresheet.
Maguire began the initial move with a cute pass for Mount, who fed Reece James for a cross which Darren Randolph spilled, before the keeper recovered to block Bukayo Saka’s shot.
The resulting corner was cleared as far as Winks, who centred devilishly for Maguire to score with a slab-head special.
Soon, Grealish came to the party – all bare shins and bare-faced cheek – with a saucy reverse pass for Reece James, whose cross was cleared for a corner.
Mount swung it in, Maguire got his famous bonce on the end of it again, forcing Randolph to tip over.
The second goal arrived on the half-hour and it was neat and tidy.
Winks squaring to Grealish who slipped in Jadon Sancho to cut in from the left, feinted and beat Randolph with a low shot inside the far corner.
After the break, Grealish was at the centre of things, slipping in a pass to Tyrone Mings, as an overlapping centre-back, who released Saka with a swanky back-heel only for the Arsenal man to shoot wide when he should have scored.
Saka soon made amends by outpacing Cyrus Christie, who nudged him over for what counts as a stonewall penalty these days.
Spain’s Carlos Del Cerro Grande – a genuine big-name referee – pointed to the spot and Calvert-Lewin thumped home from the spot.
Then Bellingham arrived for a momentous night, proving that a teenage switch to Germany can make a man of a young English player.
As old man Sancho had already proved.
Source: Read Full Article