England brushed aside the Czech Republic at Wembley in the opening game of their Euro 2020 qualification, as a Raheem Sterling hat-trick, Harry Kane‘s penalty and an own goal from Tomas Kalas gave the Three Lions a 5-0 win.
Raheem Sterling Inspires England to Win Over Czech Republic
Gareth Southgate sprung no real surprises with his starting line-up, with Michael Keane perhaps being the biggest question mark given his inconsistencies with Everton. However, with only James Tarkowski as direct cover on the bench, it always seemed a given that Keane would get the nod.
England also didn’t seem fazed by the early substitution of Eric Dier, who has recently returned from injury. Rather than throwing on Declan Rice for a debut much earlier than he’d have previously thought, Southgate sent Ross Barkley on alongside Dele Alli, moving Jordan Henderson back into a holding role in a midfield three.
Despite their dominance, the hosts weren’t really troubling Jiri Pavlenka in the Czech goal – until they took the lead out of nothing. Former Manchester City man Jadon Sancho, who received his first start for his country tonight, must have noticed how City have been playing this season, as he teed up Raheem Sterling for a simple finish in front of an open goal; something Pep Guardiola’s side have done a lot of this season.
Sterling was at the heart of England’s second too, which they got on the brink of half-time. The winger got between two Czech defenders and was taken down, and captain Kane stepped up to slam home the hosts’ second and give them a commanding lead at the break.
England looked set to continue their dominance into the second period and, on the hour mark, Sterling showed just how much he has improved in his finishing. A long ball forward from club teammate Kyle Walker, fortunately, came into his path, and he curled exquisitely into the far corner with his left foot after holding off Ondrej Celustka.
Only seven minutes later, the rampant Sterling notched his third and England’s fourth. Barkley surged forward from midfield and laid off to Sterling on the left wing, and he cut inside and found the far corner via a deflection.
Enter the Debutants
Between Sterling’s second and third, West Ham midfielder Declan Rice was introduced for his first senior England appearance since FIFA ratified his request to switch to the Three Lions from the Republic of Ireland. The youngster replaced Alli, who was still yet to fully recover from an injury that has kept him out of league action over the last few weeks.
Also coming on later on was Chelsea starlet Callum Hudson-Odoi, who wasn’t even included in the original squad. Hudson-Odoi looked bright from his introduction and he could make a claim to the fifth goal, although it has correctly gone down as an own goal by Tomas Kalas.
Sancho, still full of energy even in the latter stages, burst forward and laid it onto the winger, and his shot was palmed by Pavlenka straight into Kalas’ legs to round off a five-star start to the qualifying campaign for Gareth Southgate’s side.
Elsewhere in the Group
Only one other game took place in Group A tonight, with Todor Nedelev‘s penalty rescuing a point for Bulgaria at home to Montenegro.
Kosovo were the only team in the group to sit out tonight, but they open their campaign on Monday at home to Bulgaria, the same day Southgate takes his side to Podgorica to play Montenegro.