England put seven past North Macedonia

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  • Post published:June 20, 2023

Bukayo Saka bagged a hat-trick as England cruised to an impressive 7-0 victory over North Macedonia in their Euro qualifier at Old Trafford on Monday.

Saka has become an integral part of Gareth Southgate’s squad since his World Cup performance. The Arsenal winger scored seven goals in his last eight internationals to cap off a brilliant season.

Harry Kane also scored twice, while Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips also found the back of the net as England maintained a perfect qualifying record after four matches.

“This is a feeling I can’t really put into words. I’m just so happy,” said Saka.

“It was a really special display we put out there. They couldn’t really handle us.”

Six points separate England from Ukraine at the top of Group C, and nine separate them from Italy, who have two games in hand. Only the top two teams will qualify.

Despite a gruelling season that lasted until the middle of June, Southgate named arguably the strongest available team.

After a long campaign, the England manager was rewarded with another performance full of attacking verve and imagination that brushed aside concerns about fatigue.

“The quality of the play was good and the finishing was ruthless,” said Southgate. “For the players to have the mentality they have to work, at the late stage of this monster of all seasons. There was every excuse not to do that and they’ve not done that.

“There were boys coming back from the biggest week of their lives professionally. We had boys who had two weeks on the beach and could have approached that differently but I think what we are trying to build was apparent for everyone tonight.”

Kane opened the scoring with his sixth straight international goal, extending his lead as England’s all-time leading scorer.

Rashford released Manchester United teammate Luke Shaw down the left flank, and Shaw’s cross found Kane, who fired into the top of the net just before the half-hour mark to open the floodgates.

Good work from Kyle Walker and Trent Alexander-Arnold allowed Saka to score with his weaker right foot from a narrow angle.

Rashford scored his 21st goal at Old Trafford this season by tapping home Jordan Henderson’s cross to make the score 3-0 at halftime.

Southgate has followed Jurgen Klopp’s lead by moving Alexander-Arnold into a midfield position rather than starting him at right back.

Two minutes into the second period, with the number 10 on his back, Alexander-Arnold displayed great vision by sending a pinpoint pass over the top of the Macedonian defence to Saka, who blasted an unstoppable shot into the top corner.

Saka then completed his first career hat-trick as Kane’s pinpoint pass again opened up the visitors’ defence.

Phillips was one of four substitutions and had the simple task of tapping the ball into an empty net after Jack Grealish’s cross was deflected into his path.

When John Stones was brought down for a penalty with 17 minutes remaining, Callum Wilson was waiting on the sideline to replace Kane.

Before departing, the England captain ensured his 58th international goal by blasting the penalty kick past Dimitrievski.

The Three Lions are well on their way to Germany next summer, and based on this evidence, they will be the team to beat in twelve months.