Gareth Southgate applauds England after marking landmark match in style
Gareth Southgate was delighted to seal Euro 2020 qualification by hitting seven past Montenegro to celebrate England’s 1,000th match in emphatic fashion.
The Three Lions secured top spot in Group A and a return to Wembley for each of their pool games next summer with Thursday’s thumping victory.
Harry Kane’s hat-trick helped Southgate’s men on the way to a 7-0 win against hapless Montenegro, with the skipper’s treble complementing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marcus Rashford efforts in a remarkable first half.
Aleksandar Sofranac’s own goal and substitute Tammy Abraham’s first for his country completed the rout at Wembley, where a number of England greats were in attendance to see the youngest starting XI since 1959 perform so impressively.
“I think the quality of our attacking play first half was excellent,” Southgate said. “It’s been a group that we expected to win but we’ve totally taken teams apart.
“Matches in the past that have been problematic for England teams, where teams have defended deep in numbers and been stubborn because of our speed, movement, speed of ball circulation, we’ve carved those teams apart – and added, of course, to the quality of the individual players that we’ve got, both on the pitch tonight and the players that have played earlier in the campaign.
“So, we knew we had a team tonight right the way through who would be really comfortable with the ball.
“Speed, athleticism, two high midfield players who can score goals as well and they did that in the first half and they’d killed the game within 25 minutes, really.”
Having a hitman like Kane leading the line certainly helps.
With all-time top-scorer Wayne Rooney watching from the stands, the 26-year-old took his tally to 31 goals, usurping Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse and Tom Finney in the process.
“Somebody mentioned some of the names that he’s gone past tonight which will be very special for him,” Southgate said.
“He’s an incredible goalscorer, that’s the obvious part of his game, but the link play – he’s a number nine that can play and link as an outstanding 10 as well.
“So, not only does he lead the line for us, provide the goal threat, but also provide opportunities for others and I’ve said before, what an unselfish player he is.
“But, of course, when those opportunities are there he’s absolutely ruthless.”
World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst, who knows a thing or two about hat-tricks, was another in attendance as England celebrated their landmark fixture in style.
“It was very important to us to bring as many former players back as we could,” Southgate added.
“I’ve said all along, I want those former players to feel a part of what we’re doing. I saw a couple of the guys earlier in the week and I’m sure it would have been special for them to be invited back.
“I can remember the first time I got invited back, about five years after I’d finished playing with England, and it was really special for me to bring my dad to a game and sit with him and watch England play, having played on the pitch myself.
“So, I know exactly how that will have felt for all of them and for their families.”
While the Three Lions will look back on the occasion with fondness, Montenegro’s players and their head coach Faruk Hadzibegic will not.
“It is hard to talk about a game like this and a result that we had,” he said. “We must congratulate England on their victory. We made it easier for them than we should have and that is unfortunate for us.
“The gifts that we handed over to them should not happen at this level. We should not do that in future.
“England usually score five or six goals. We have an excuse that we had a lot of injured players and a big team like England can use that advantage, even against the better teams.”