- goal scored by R. Sterling
- goal scored by H. Kane Goal type PEN (PEN)
- goal scored by T. Kalas Goal type OG (OG)
- goal scored by R. Sterling
- goal scored by H. Kane Goal type Penalty Goal
- goal scored by T. Kalas Goal type Own Goal
Good to be back
England boss Gareth Southgate writes ahead of the first match of 2019 in his programme notes
We’ve been really looking forward to getting back with the players again for this month’s games, having had such a strong end to last year.
We’ve also got a fresh qualifying campaign for EURO 2020 and what will be an amazing tournament. We’ve still got the Nations League semi-finals to look forward to later in the year, but we have to get back to zero and remember what has got us to this point, the way we’ve worked and the strengths of the group and re-focus to make sure we’re ready for this next challenge.
We have to take care of qualification for this one, because the tournament itself is going to be massive. To have the group matches at Wembley, having lived through all of that myself 20-odd years ago and having had an incredible experience, it is a massive incentive there for all of us.
It’s a tough qualifying group that we’re in. In terms of the nations involved, you can look at the rankings and think that in terms of quality we should get out of it, but they’re all games which have caused us problems in the past.
We’ve played Montenegro twice out there in recent years and not beaten them yet, so that shows how tough these games can be. It’s about making sure our preparations are spot on. There is competition for places in the squad and the team and that’s a really important factor for us, to make sure everybody’s focus is right.
The Nations League this summer is something we can look forward to, but this month we really need to park it and concentrate on these two games. What was pleasing in the autumn was that one of the questions against us was could we win against the top teams.
So to get the victory in Spain and then to win in such dramatic circumstances against Croatia, having gone beyond, was a real test for the team, not just in terms of capability but also the personality and character that they’re now showing. These are all hurdles which we need to overcome. It’s something to really get excited about in the summer, but we need to make sure that this week, we’re taking a really strong step towards the next summer and there’s no room for error.
You can read the full piece from Gareth in the match programme, which also features the thoughts of Callum Wilson, Patrik Berger and much more. Order your copy now.
Nations League head-to-head
England kicked-off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a big win at Wembley
Raheem Sterling lit up Wembley as England kick-started their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a bang.
The Manchester City star hit a hat-trick to sink Czech Republic and get the Three Lions up and running in 2019.
And it was even more special for Sterling, whose last goal at Wembley came four years ago in a win over Lithuania, given he grew up within a five-minute stroll of the national stadium.
It was no less than what Gareth Southgate’s side had deserved either as they look to build on what was a fantastic calendar year in 2018.
England looked to have kept their sharpness and positive outlook carried over from November, and there were two more young debutants from the substitute’s bench in Declan Rice and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
But after enjoying the lion’s share of possession, without creating too many chances, England needed to find an incisive edge.
Image: Kane and Henderson celebration
And that’s exactly what it took for the Three Lions’ opener, when Harry Kane split the Czech defence with an exquisite pass through the lines for Jadon Sancho.
The youngster raced clear on the right before placing a cross for Sterling, who slid in to tap home from five yards and get England’s new campaign up and running.
It was Sterling’s involvement which led to England’s second goal in first-half stoppage time too, as his run into the box was crudely blocked by both Ondrej Celustka and Pavel Kaderabok at the expense of a penalty.
Kane stepped up and made no mistake, striking powerfully into the corner to put his side into a commanding position.
Whatever Czech coach Jaroslav Silhavy said to his team at the break certainly had the desired effect, as they emerged for the second half with a much more positive approach.
And they could’ve found their way back into the game on a couple of occasions in the early stages of the second half, with Jordan Pickford called upon to save twice from both David Pavelka’s drifting free-kick and then a deflected header from Vladimir Darida.
Image: Dele and Maguire celebration
Sancho could’ve added his name to the scoresheet just short of the hour mark, when Sterling’s low cross picked him out in the six-yard box but a great block from Filip Novak was enough to clear the danger for the visitors.
It was Sterling’s night though, as he made it 3-0 in the 62nd minute after receiving the ball in the area. He controlled before swivelling and curling a left-footer beyond Jiri Pavlenka and into the far corner.
Six minutes later, he completed his hat-trick after lining up a shot from the edge of the area. It took a deflection off the back of Tomas Kalas, but not enough to take the treble away from Sterling.
And Czech Republic’s miserable night was completed with the fifth, which came when Pavlenka did well to save Hudson-Odoi’s low shot only to see the ball bounce off Tomas Kalas and into his own goal.
It was just the start which Gareth Southgate had been looking for though, and the Three Lions will now head for Montenegro with confidence.
- Goals: 3
- Penalties won: 1
- Mins played: 70