England took another step closer to qualifying for the World Cup when Gareth Southgate celebrated five years in the dugout with a predictably comfortable win against Minnows Andorra.
After coronavirus vaccination rates dominated buildup within the roster, attention turned to matters in the field as the Three Lions’ unbeaten journey to Qatar continued deep in the Pyrenees.
Ben Chilwell and Bukayo Saka brought England under control during the break against 156th place in the world. Tammy Abraham, James Ward-Prowse and Jack Grealish celebrated a 5-0 triumph.
Only 2,285 were present at the Estadi Nacional, where the hosts worked feverishly overnight to repair the damage caused by the spectacular side fire around the TV portal area on the evening before the game.
The fire came shortly after Southgate faced the media speaking on topics as diverse as Andorra’s artificial turf, vaccines and an important gender equality opportunity on the fifth anniversary of his first game against Malta.
In Saturday’s Group I game, Ukrainian Kateryna Monzul was the first woman to lead a men’s game for England’s senior team – a historic moment in a Pyrenees cake run.
Phil foden was the architect of both goals in the first half and provided the killer ball for Chilwell’s first international goal – awarded after the VAR overruled an initial offside call – and then for Saka’s blow.
Abraham, who made his first international start in four years, converted a cross from Jadon Sancho in the second half, with Ward-Prowse taking a late penalty from him and hitting home after his first shot.
Grealish won the penalty and added a late glow on his first international goal in Andorra la Vella.
England’s fans outdid locals at the Estadi Nacional after receiving the green light to travel for the first time since visiting Kosovo in November 2019.
Chilwell was the only survivor of the team that started that night and had some difficult months behind with his goal in the 17th minute.
Foden came into possession 30 yards further and his choppy ball brought Sancho back, with the winger pulling out goalkeeper Josep Gomes before falling back for the left-back to come home.
The goal was initially disqualified for offside, but a lengthy VAR review resulted in the decision being overturned when Chilwell scored his first England goal.
Abraham was contested at close range as the Three Lions pushed Andorra to the inevitable second place that had to take 41-year-old Ildefons Lima after half an hour.
Replacing skipper Kieran Trippier saw a shot deflected from behind before Foden unlocked the hosts’ deep defensive line again and Saka shot his left foot into the goal five minutes before the break.
John Stones and Cristian Martinez got the first bookings of the evening as tension eased before the break, and Sancho soon joined Monzul’s notebook.
The winger, who at times showed great skill, was furious at an unpunished Chus Rubio challenge just before the break, with the winger informing the Andorrans as they were about to break.
Sancho saw no attempt, Jesse Lingard headed past the goal and Abraham took off, while England continued to win after the break.
In the 59th minute they took the lead when Sancho flew over a right-footed cross from the left and Roma striker Abraham shot a knife into the goal.
– ITV soccer (@itvfootball) October 9, 2021
Fikayo Tomori came on for his second international match for England in place of the Stones shortly afterwards, with Andorra fortunate enough not to be reduced to 10 after Marc Rebes rattled off at Conor Coady.
The hosts grew tired as the game drew to a close and continued attacks by the Three Lions resulted in more goals.
Substitute Grealish was brought down in the penalty area by Rubio, Ward-Prowse grabbed the ball after a discussion with Abraham and shot the rebound home after his penalty was saved by Gomes.
Another goal came in the 86th minute when Grealish finally opened his international account and hit deep behind Gomes after a long throw from goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
A late duel prevented Ollie Watkins from adding a sixth place in a night when England ranked 12th in a calendar year.