Bukayo Saka scored a hat-trick as England continued their impressive march towards Euro 2024 with a 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia at Old Trafford on Monday.
Saka has become an indispensable part of Gareth Southgate’s side since starring at the World Cup and took his tally to seven goals in his last eight internationals to round off a brilliant season for the Arsenal winger.
Harry Kane also scored twice, while Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips were on target as the Three Lions maintained a 100 percent record in qualifying after four games.
England move six points clear of Ukraine at the top of Group C and nine clear of Italy, who have two games in hand, with the top two set to qualify.
Despite a mammoth season lasting into the middle of June, Southgate took no chances as he named arguably his strongest available side.
Manchester City duo John Stones and Kyle Walker returned in defence, while Rashford replaced James Maddison from the side that thrashed Malta 4-0 on Friday.
The England manager was rewarded with another display full of attacking verve and imagination that made light of concerns over fatigue after a long campaign.
Kane opened the scoring as he netted for the sixth consecutive international to stretch his lead as England’s all-time record goalscorer.
Rashford released Manchester United teammate Luke Shaw down the left and his cross picked out Kane to fire into the roof of the net and open the floodgates just before the half-hour mark.
Good work from Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold then teed up Saka to blast in from a narrow angle on his weaker right foot.
Only a brilliant save from Macedonia ‘keeper Stole Dimitrievski momentarily denied Rashford a goal on his home ground after a lovely one-two with Harry Maguire.
But Rashford quickly made amends by tapping home his 21st goal at Old Trafford this season from Jordan Henderson’s cross to make it 3-0 at half-time.
Southgate has followed Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s lead in pushing Alexander-Arnold forward into a midfield role rather than starting at right-back.
With the number 10 on his back, Alexander-Arnold displayed his wonderful vision with a pinpoint pass over the top of the Macedonian defence for Saka, who smashed an unstoppable effort into the top corner two minutes into the second period.
Saka then completed his first career hat-trick as this time Kane’s precise pass opened the visitors up.
Phillips was then introduced as one of four changes and had an easy task of tapping into an empty net when Jack Grealish’s cross was deflected into his path.
Callum Wilson was waiting on the touchline ready to replace Kane when Stones was hauled down for a penalty 17 minutes from time.
But the England captain made sure of his 58th international goal before departing as he blasted the spot-kick high past Dimitrievski.
The Three Lions are already well on their way to Germany next summer and on this evidence are the side to beat in 12 months’ time.
World Cup News
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Tuesday blasted as “insufficient” the apology given by...
Spain’s Women’s World Cup hero Olga Carmona paid tribute to her father on Monday...
Spain midfielder Jenni Hermoso defended Spanish football federation president Luis Rubiales after he came...
Sunday’s World Cup final between England and Spain is the final act of a...