England ran out confident 5-0 winners in their opening EURO 2020 qualifying match against Czech Republic, with Raheem Sterling stealing the show with a sublime hat-trick.
The Manchester City winger opened the scoring for England with a poacher’s finish, before adding two more clinical finishes to silence any potential critics. For a player previously criticised for lacking goals in a national team shirt, he made no mistake with his chances in this one.
He fully deserved his plaudits as he walked off the Wembley pitch shortly after to be rested for the next match against Montenegro.
Harry Kane had added a second for England just before half-time from the spot after Portuguese referee Artur Manuel Soares Dias awarded the home side a penalty.
It was an arguably soft decision, with Sterling simply being sandwiched between two Czech defenders and possibly having already lost control of the ball, but either way Kane made no mistake with the finish.
A poor defensive error from Bristol City centre-back Tomas Kalas finished the scoring when he fumbled the ball into the back of his own net. It had bounced up at him from a save by his goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka, but it did seem as if the Czech defender had time to adjust his feet.
Gareth Southgate used the match to blood in some young faces into the England set-up, with Borussia Dortmund starlet Jadon Sancho getting a first start and Callum Hudson-Odoi getting a run-out later on.
Declan Rice also made his first international appearance for England since making the switch of allegiance from the Republic of Ireland.
England looked encouraging, full of a good balance of youthful energy and necessary experience. In what could have easily been a banana skin of an opening fixture (the Czech Republic have some real EURO pedigree behind them) the Three Lions got exactly the result that was needed.
The clean sheet was an added bonus, though in fairness England had little defensive work to do throughout much of the match. So much so that there did appear to be some few moments of complacency at the start of the second half, but the England defence rode the pressure well.
In truth, England’s group is one that shouldn’t cause any real problems. Especially not at Wembley.
There may be no out-and-out ‘whipping boy’ in the group, but none of Bulgaria, Montenegro or Kosovo should provide any more of a threat than Czech Republic did.
With a brilliant start now in the bag, England just need to push on and keep this form up. There will be a raucous reception for them in Podgorica on Monday, as Montenegro look to psych them out of the match, but on paper at least it should be another confident display and win.