As a competitive spectacle, this was predictably lacking. Andorra have made steps forward over the past five years or so but mainly in terms of restricting the number of hammerings they have suffered. All they wanted to do here was keep the scoreline down and they barely crossed the halfway line.
Yet as a spectacle itself, there was plenty to enjoy. England’s first return to Wembley since the penalty shootout loss to Italy in the Euro 2020 final was marked by a fun atmosphere and the continued feeling that this is a team that people can get behind.
Gareth Southgate made 11 changes to the lineup that had beaten Hungary 4-0 in Budapest last Thursday and the moment that everybody most enjoyed came on 85 minutes when Jesse Lingard took a short corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold and crossed for Bukayo Saka to head the fourth goal.
The love for Saka was a feature. One of the three players to miss from the spot against Italy and suffer racial abuse on social media, he drew the loudest cheer when the teams were announced beforehand and how his goal was celebrated. He was saluted after full-time when he handed his shirt to a fan behind one of the goals.
Lingard scored the first and third goals and Harry Kane, on as a substitute, rammed home a penalty for 2-0 – his 40th for England, taking him level with Michael Owen in fifth on the all-time list. Job done. Next up for England is a trip to Poland on Wednesday where qualification to next year’s World Cup could move even closer.
It speaks volumes for the feelgood factor that has built around the team that Wembley was filled with 67,171 fans despite Andorra’s lack of appeal and there were plenty of nods to the reasons why – namely the journey to the final of the Euros.
The best bits were recalled before kick-off on the big screen and the anthem of the summer – Sweet Caroline – was belted around the stadium as the players prepared to emerge from the tunnel. A giant banner was unfurled, urging Saka and the other two who had suffered after missing their kicks against Italy – Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford – to walk tall.
There was a laid-back feeling in the sunshine, maybe because there were lots of children in the crowd, enjoying the occasion. There were no boos when the England players took the knee and even the Andorran anthem was respected. It was a far cry from the gurning angst of Italy.
England were always going to win. It was just by how many and in what kind of style. Jude Bellingham was intent on bringing the latter. Playing in a box-to-box role on the left of the starting midfield three, he showcased a lovely touch, awareness and an ability to beat his man from a standing start. What a talent he is.
There was a lovely moment early on when the 18-year-old glided away from two red shirts in a tight area on the flank before nutmegging a third and he was involved in the opening goal, dragging the ball back and working it to Lingard in one fluent movement after Tyrone Mings had stepped up to win possession. Lingard went left to Saka, the cross was half-cleared and Lingard’s touch and finish was assured. At times in the first-half, it felt as though Bellingham was everywhere.
Saka had been denied moments earlier, his shot from a Bellingham cutback bound for the far corner only to flick off Chus Rubio and wriggle wide (mysteriously, there would be no corner) and England had other chances before the interval. The best was created for Conor Coady by the debutant, Patrick Bamford, who headed square from a deep Kieran Trippier free-kick. Coady’s hooked finish was off target. Alexander-Arnold also wafted a free-kick high from a promising position.
The crowd amused themselves by lobbing paper planes down on to the pitch but it did not feel motivated by boredom, as it had been early on in Southgate’s tenure, rather by celebration.
Bamford worked to link the play, he put himself about and he had a big chance on 47 minutes only to slash high after Bellingham had attacked a ball into area. The goal Bamford had dreamed of would not come.
Southgate started Alexander-Arnold on the right of the midfield three, urging him to bring his own interpretation to the role and it was a work in progress. The Liverpool player did not look comfortable and he could not influence the game. Southgate moved him to right-back at the start of the second half and swapped Reece James into defensive midfield. It was not long before James dropped his shoulder on the edge of the box and fizzed a shot against the crossbar.
Andorra were uncompromising, happy to leave their boots in and Southgate turned to Kane, Jack Grealish and Mason Mount just after the hour. With the game drifting, Grealish combined superbly with Mount, who cut inside Rubio and was bundled over by Christian García. When Kane addressed the penalty, the outcome was not in doubt.
Lingard shot low into the far corner after taking a pass from Saka and he might have had a hat-trick at the end only to see a shot blocked after a lovely Grealish run. Kane would also be denied when Josep Gómes pushed away his curler for the far corner.