Calvert-Lewin scores on fine England debut to set up victory over Wales

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored on his international debut to set up England’s 3-0 win over Wales in a low-key friendly

Gareth Southgate needed this. England needed this. And after all the focus on the squad’s misbehaving players, on what Southgate had called the off-field “circus”, how gratifying it was to see a cohesive performance and a clutch of dream-come-true moments.

There was a debut goal for Dominic Calvert-Lewin, which embossed an assertive display from him, and first England goals for Conor Coady and Danny Ings on the occasions of their second and third caps respectively. Both were beautifully taken. Coady’s joy knew no bounds.

To top it all, there was Jack Grealish, who stole the show, gliding with menace off the left of Southgate’s 3-4-3 system, which functioned a whole lot better than it did in the 0-0 draw in Denmark last month.

Everything was better, with England threatening through Calvert-Lewin at the outset and shifting towards total control in the second-half when a Wales team missing Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Gareth Bale could not live with them. The movement, passing and pressing came to be on point, which was not bad for such an experimental lineup.

Southgate had warned that the performance was not “going to be perfect” mainly because of his players’ lack of familiarity with each other. The inexperience of his starting team was pronounced – there were just 54 caps between them at kick-off and Michael Keane, Joe Gomez and the stand-in captain, Kieran Trippier, had 41 of those. The manager wanted to keep the powder of his big guns dry for the Nations League ties with Belgium on Sunday and Denmark next Wednesday. It was not perfect but, at the same time, there was plenty to enjoy.

The buildup had been dominated by the Covid-19 breaches from Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho, which had come hard on the heels of the errors of judgment by Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood in the previous camp, not to mention Harry Maguire.

Danny Ings scores with an overhead kick.
Danny Ings scores with an overhead kick. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/NMC Pool/The Guardian

Southgate’s players shaped a different narrative here, with the other debutant in the starting XI, Bukayo Saka, overcoming a nervous start to almost get on the scoresheet – Wayne Hennessey denied him with one of a string of fine saves – and even the largely untroubled Nick Pope stepped up when needed. The goalkeeper left his line to block bravely at the feet of Kieffer Moore in the 30th minute. Southgate knows that defensive solidity is a prerequisite for tournament success and he could be pleased at what was a sixth clean sheet in succession.

Calvert-Lewin was determined to showcase the clever movement and power that has lit up the early weeks of the Premier League season and he had advertised the opening goal. From an early Trippier corner, he rose unmarked only to see his Everton teammate, Keane, stretch to reach the header in front of him and succeed in flicking the ball away from him. There was also the dart on to an Ings pass that enabled him to go round Hennessey only to find the angle was too acute to score.

Although Wales looked comfortable on the ball in the first half, Jonny Williams catching the eye with his balance on the ball, Calvert-Lewin’s breakthrough was a fair reflection of the first 45 minutes. Its creation was all about Grealish, who was the outstanding player on the pitch.

As he has done for Aston Villa so far this season, especially in Sunday’s 7-2 win over Liverpool, Grealish sniffed out spaces and drove his team on with the ball at his feet. His balance in possession was lovely to watch and he bought himself a yard against Ethan Ampadu, having moseyed over from left to right, before whipping over a precision cross for Calvert-Lewin, who was already on the move. The downward-headed finish was a formality. All he really needed to do was to slow the thump of his heart.

The Fiver: sign up and get our daily football email.

Moore had half a chance in the 22nd minute after Saka had headed weakly out to him but he could not get hold of the volley and the big one came when Keane lost the flight of a high ball and he tore in on goal. Pope was alert, taking Moore’s knee to his face as he smothered, and it was the striker who came off worse, picking up a knock that would force him off.

England’s lead at half-time might have been greater had Coady been able to keep his shot down after a corner had been recycled by Keane, but he did score early in the second period. He sprinted on to Trippier’s free-kick, in front of two Wales defenders, and the half-volleyed finish in the roof of the net was almost nonchalant.

Ings could also look back on a positive evening’s work, his movement dangerous throughout, and his goal was a beauty, a well executed overhead-kick after the substitute Tyrone Mings had headed back a corner.

Southgate got Reece James and Harvey Barnes on for their first caps and Wales would have gone under had it not been for Hennessey. His saves at 3-0 denied Grealish, Saka, Ings and James Ward-Prowse.


David Hytner at Wembley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Wales' Joe Rodon has chance to show his worth against England | Ben Fisher
Rise of Joe Rodon, the impressive young Swansea centre-back, is no surprise to those who coached him on the way up

Ben Fisher

07, Oct, 2020 @3:47 PM

Article image
Dominic Calvert-Lewin scores but England Under-21s draw with Poland
Dominic Calvert-Lewin opened the scoring for England Under-21s but Poland’s Sebastian Szymanski equalised with a spectacular free-kick as the sides played out a 1-1 friendly draw

Stuart James at Ashton Gate

21, Mar, 2019 @10:10 PM

Article image
Daniel James’s superb goal enough to earn Wales victory over Belarus
A superb first-half goal by Daniel James gave Wales a 1-0 friendly victory over Belarus in Cardiff

Stuart James at Cardiff City Stadium

09, Sep, 2019 @10:04 PM

Article image
Gareth Southgate needs to find solutions for unbalanced England side | Jonathan Liew
The England manager has picked an inexperienced 30-man squad for the international triple-header. What will he learn?

Jonathan Liew

07, Oct, 2020 @4:00 PM

Article image
Gareth Bale takes aim at England by saying Wales won ‘moral victory’
Gareth Bale has aimed a mischievous dig at Roy Hodgson’s side by describing Wales winning Group B as a ‘moral victory’

Stuart James in Dinard

23, Jun, 2016 @2:52 PM

Article image
Wales’ players have ‘no regrets’ on cheering Iceland’s win over England
Wales players have explained celebrating Iceland’s elimination of England from Euro 2016, claiming it was an expression of pride as the only home nations side in the last eight

Paul Wilson in Dinard

28, Jun, 2016 @9:29 PM

Article image
Wales 1-2 Australia | International friendly match report
A late goal from Darcy Blake was not enough for Wales as they suffered a fourth defeat in five matches

Stuart James at Cardiff City Stadium

10, Aug, 2011 @10:05 PM

Article image
Chris Smalling swoops to give limp England victory over 10-man Portugal
England struggled to break down a Portugal side who had Bruno Alves sent off before Chris Smalling’s late header gave them a 1-0 victory

Daniel Taylor at Wembley

02, Jun, 2016 @8:54 PM

Article image
Raheem Sterling leads England to easy victory over 10-man Ivory Coast
Ollie Watkins and Raheem Sterling scored either side of Serge Aurier’s first-half red card, before Tyrone Mings’ late header sealed England’s 3-0 win against Ivory Coast

David Hytner at Wembley

29, Mar, 2022 @9:00 PM

Article image
Jude Bellingham takes centre stage to inspire England in victory over Scotland
England defeated Scotland 3-1 at Hampden Park with Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane scoring in the 150th anniversary match

David Hytner at Hampden Park

12, Sep, 2023 @9:01 PM