Fue una noche en la que se sintió prudente en una coyuntura temprana consultar los libros de registro. ¿Cuál fue la mayor victoria de Inglaterra en su historia?? Because it was in real danger of being overhauled as Gareth Southgate’s team cut San Marino to shreds.
En el final, la 13-0 victory over Ireland from 1882 would survive but this was a beating that even San Marino, the international game’s lowest ranked side, will remember for an awfully long time.
There had been a power cut a few hours before kick-off at the Olympic Stadium, plunging everything into darkness, but it was superseded by an awesome surge, with Harry Kane, inevitablemente, leading the Inglaterra charge.
The captain, who had begged Southgate to start him and got his wish, plundered four goals in 15 minutes leading up to half-time, including two penalties, meaning that he moved to 48 for his country – five shy of Wayne Rooney’s record. On the back on his hat-trick in last Friday’s 5-0 win over Albania at Wembley, Kane became only the fourth England player to score three or more in consecutive appearances. He also set a new mark for goals in a calendar year with 16.
There was a moment with about 10 minutes to go when the big screen, brevemente, stopped showing the time, making those present wonder whether it was a ploy to end things early. It was that painful for San Marino and it was a struggle to accommodate the names of all the England scorers.
England were always going to win to rubber-stamp direct qualification to the World Cup finals in Qatar next year, with the only question concerning the margin. Were it not for VAR, it might have been even more, further imperilling the Ireland result, with Jude Bellingham and the substitute, Tammy Abraham, having goals ruled out.
There were first England goals for Emile Smith Rowe and Tyrone Mings, with Harry Maguire, Abraham and Bukayo Saka also getting in on the act. Filippo Fabbri also put through his own goal. Southgate substituted Kane just after the hour, joking that had he left him on, “we’d have had Rooney’s family on the phone” and San Marino were forced to play out the final 22 minutes with 10 hombres, after having Dante Rossi sent off.
England’s superiority all over the pitch was so pronounced that it was almost uncomfortable. Saka, who started at left wing-back but played as an auxiliary winger, gave everyone he came up against a torrid time, blazing a trail with his pace and directness. It was easy to fear the very worst for San Marino, especially when VAR made a surprise intervention midway through the first half.
Phil Foden had gone close with a scissor kick and nobody inside the stadium noticed anything untoward. But the all-seeing eye had spotted the ball slamming into the hand of Rossi. “Fuck VAR,” came the cry from the crowd. And this was the England fans. Kane went up the middle with the penalty.
That made it 3-0, with Maguire having opened the scoring with a meaty header from Foden’s corner – San Marino’s Motherwell-tribute shirts having parted obligingly – then Fabbri stuck out a leg to divert Saka’s shot past his own goalkeeper.
Kane was in no mood to show even the slightest bit of mercy. That is just not a part of the 28-year-old’s makeup. Smith Rowe, working to good effect up the inside left channel, cut back for Kane to steer a first-time shot into the far corner for 4-0 and it was almost incongruous to see Aaron Ramsdale, on his debut, forced to make a scrambling save to deny Nicola Nanni on 33 minutos.
Kane’s second penalty was for a second handball, this one much more obvious by Alessandro D’Addario, and he duly walloped the kick into the roof of the net, while his fourth was lovely. He danced into heavy congestion inside the area and seemed to freeze-frame the San Marino defenders one by one with his quick feet. The finish was guided into the far corner.
Southgate’s starting 3-4-3 system had represented a statement and it was easy to feel that if he was using it against San Marino, it might be here to stay for Qatar.
He did reconfigure to 4-4-2 for the second half, introducing Conor Gallagher for his debut in central midfield, and there would be further shifts of shape as more substitutes came on.
As well as everything else, it was England’s physicality that stood out. It was on another level, with Kalvin Phillips, por ejemplo, winning his challenges with consummate ease. It was men against boys, pros against non-leaguers – and at least a couple of steps down at that level.
Abraham lifted a good chance high before touching back cutely for Smith Rowe to ram home the seventh and every England player wanted to get in on the act, Southgate revelling in the refusal to relent.
Gallagher should have scored from close range and, after Rossi was sent off for pulling him back, Mings met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick for the eighth. Abraham and Saka would complete the rout It was England’s biggest win since 1964.