Gareth Southgate saw room for improvement from England as they coasted to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat of Albania.

The Three Lions followed up their 5-0 drubbing of San Marino with another comfortable Group I win at the Air Albania Stadium on Sunday.

Captain Harry Kane ended a run of six games without a goal for his country with a first-half header and laid one on for Mason Mount after the break.

Kane and Phil Foden also struck the woodwork and Albania could not muster a shot on target in Tirana, where their run of four consecutive victories came to an end.

England boss Southgate was not impressed with the way his side finished a game they dominated ahead of a showdown with Poland at Wembley on Wednesday.

"It was a difficult pitch to move the ball on but we adapted well to that," Southgate told ITV Sport. "After about 25 minutes we just changed the shape of the midfield a little bit and we looked more dangerous.

"They had a different formation to the one they've played in the last 25 matches, so I thought we adapted well to that.

"We were comfortable for most of the second half. I just thought at the end of the game we had opportunities to make it three and should have killed the game off.

"I didn't like the way we managed the game in the last 15 minutes, charging forward when we didn't need to and a throw-in at the end that we nearly conceded a goal from.

"I'm pleased we can win but I thought there were areas we can certainly tighten up on."

Harry Kane set his sights on Poland after scoring one goal and creating another for Mason Mount in England's 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Albania.

Kane had gone six games without finding the back of the net for his country before opening the scoring with a first-half header at the Air Albania Stadium in Tirana on Sunday.

The Three Lions captain turned provider after the break, picking out Mount with a measured pass which the Chelsea midfielder controlled in an instant before dinking over goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and into the back of the net.

Kane and Phil Foden also struck the woodwork in a dominant display from Gareth Southgate's side, who have started their bid to qualify for next year's tournament in Qatar with straightforward victories over San Marino and now Albania.

A much bigger test is expected when England face Poland in Group I on Wednesday, but captain Kane says they will go into that showdown with great confidence.

The Tottenham striker told ITV Sport: "I thought it was a really good performance, maybe a bit slow at the start but we changed our formation and I think that helped.

"Sometimes you go through spells when things don't go your way, that is part of being a striker. You just have to stay focused and it was great to get three points.

"We need to keep working hard but we are in a good place. Poland will be the toughest game in the group but we are ready for that. If we can win that, that puts us in a great position."

England talisman Kane has now had a direct hand in 18 goals in his last 13 games at international level, scoring 11 and providing seven assists.

The 27-year-old's header ensured he has scored in each of his last seven away qualifying matches, the longest ever run by an England player.

Harry Kane scored his first international goal in 16 months as England cruised to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Albania in Tirana.

Kane had not found the back of the net for his country since November 2019, but the captain opened the scoring with a first-half header at the Air Albania Stadium on Sunday.

The striker then set up Mason Mount to double England's lead in the second half as the Group I leaders made it two wins out of two following their 5-0 hammering of San Marino on Thursday.

Kane and Phil Foden struck the woodwork in a dominant display from Gareth Southgate's side, with Nick Pope becoming the first goalkeeper not to concede a goal in his first six England games as second-placed Albania failed to register a shot on target.

England came up just short in the third ODI despite the best efforts of Sam Curran, meaning India secure a 2-1 series triumph to complete a clean sweep in all formats.

Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant and Hardik Pandya all hit half-centuries as India - who had rallied to win 3-1 in the Tests, then 2-1 in the Twenty20 games – were bowled out for 329 in 48.2 overs.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck twice in the powerplay on his way to figures of 3-42, while Shardul Thakur claimed 4-67 in an England reply that looked doomed at 257-8.

However, with Mark Wood as an able ally, Curran continued to take the fight to India, making 95 not out. His defiant hitting – which included nine fours and three sixes - reduced the equation down to 14 from the final over, yet left-arm paceman T Natarajan held his nerve to seal a seven-run victory.

For the first time in the series, England had failed to build a foundation in a run chase. Openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow had put on 135 and 110 in the previous two games, only to both fall cheaply to the impressive Kumar in the finale.

Ben Stokes made 35 and Dawid Malan (50) hit a maiden ODI half-century – during which he added 60 with Liam Livingstone (36) - but wickets continued to fall regularly, leaving India in control.

Curran capitalised on some poor fielding to keep his side afloat – the hosts dropped four catches – but England were unable to end their tour on a winning note.

Having seen their opponents chase down a target of 337 with more than six overs to spare last time out, India adopted a more aggressive approach with the bat at the start of the day.

Openers Rohit Sharma (37) and Shikhar Dhawan zipped along at faster than a run-a-ball rate in a century stand that was eventually ended by a superb delivery from Adil Rashid, who bowled the former with a googly.

Rashid also dismissed Dhawan for 67 two overs later, while fellow spinner Moeen Ali cleaned up Virat Kohli cheaply with one that turned sharply to surprise India's captain, who saw his team slip from 103 without loss to 157-4.

However, Pant and Pandya went on the offensive in a 99-run stand that was eventually ended when wicketkeeper Jos Buttler reacted quickly to take an edge from Pant, who fell to Curran for 78 off just 62 deliveries. Pandya followed not long after for 64, bowled by Stokes.

Wood claimed three late wickets as India were bowled out with 10 deliveries to spare. It turned out they still had enough runs, despite Curran's heroics providing a thrilling finish to England's tour.

Tottenham and England star Harry Kane said he will decide his future after the upcoming European Championships.

Kane has been linked with Premier League rivals Manchester United and Manchester City, as well as LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

The 27-year-old striker, who emerged from Tottenham's youth team in 2009, is contracted to Spurs until 2024.

But Kane is shutting out speculation over his future as he prepares for Tottenham's EFL Cup final against City next month and England's bid to claim their first piece of international silverware since 1966 at the rescheduled Euro 2020.

"I think that's a hard question to answer right now," Kane told the Telegraph when asked about the noise surrounding his future at Tottenham.

"It's important that all my focus is on the two England games coming up now and the rest of the season with Spurs and then the Euros.

"To be thinking about speculation or rumours would be damaging in terms of my own performance.

"I always like to be focused on one goal and one job and that's to finish strong with Spurs, win these qualifiers with England and hopefully go on and have a great Euros.

"Look, I try to stay out of that speculation as much as possible.

"I'm fully focussed on doing the job on the pitch from now until the end of the summer, and then we'll see where we go from there."

Jose Mourinho's Tottenham are sixth in the Premier League, three points outside of the Champions League qualification places ahead of the April 25 EFL Cup decider against City.

England have been drawn in Group D for Euro 2020, which gets underway in June, alongside Croatia, Scotland and Czech Republic.

Kane has scored 17 Premier League goals this season, while he has netted 27 across all competitions for Tottenham in 2020-21.

It was not sealed in the fashion they would have hoped for, but Wales could belatedly celebrate Six Nations glory on Friday.

Wayne Pivac's side had missed the chance to claim a Grand Slam triumph last week in a heartbreaking last-gasp defeat to France.

But with France needing a bonus-point win by a 21-point margin in Friday's rearranged clash with Scotland - delayed due to an earlier COVID-19 outbreak - to deny Wales again, Les Bleus' loss in Paris handed them the title.

"It's a real emotional rollercoaster, the last seven days really," Wales head coach Pivac said on Saturday.

He added: "It was just different and that's what we've come to expect from this pandemic really.

"It was evident that we had to go and do something different and that was to watch us win a championship from our living room."

That was far from the only first in a tournament with its fair share of twists and turns, though, as Opta data shows.
 

MORE TRIES, MORE DRAMA

There were six tries in Friday's frantic affair at the Stade de France and that contributed to a new Six Nations record.

A total of 86 tries were scored across the 15 matches, the most in a single edition of the tournament in its history.

And Scotland's dramatic 27-23 success, sealed with an 80th-minute Duhan van der Merwe score, was a fitting end to the competition.

Eight of the 15 games were decided by margins of five points or fewer, another new benchmark.

"There were some great games," Pivac said. "It was just a shame we didn't have crowds. You can imagine how much of an atmosphere would have been generated.

"It was a good advertisement for the game and a lot of nations are heading in the right direction. It's exciting."

Van der Merwe beat two defenders in the decisive fixture and in doing so set a new tournament high of 31, surpassing Brian O'Driscoll's 30 defenders beaten in 2000.

The wing's brace also saw him become the first Scotland player to finish a Six Nations campaign as the outright leading try scorer (five).

France needed to score at least one more try in order to have a chance of snatching the championship, but they still matched their best haul of 18 from 2006.

Not all the records were quite so impressive.

Italy conceded 239 points, 34 tries and had a points difference of -184, the worst such tallies for any team in an edition of the Six Nations.
 

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Wales' title was their sixth since Italy were introduced to the tournament to form the Six Nations in 2000.

Four of their previous five had been Grand Slam successes, a record over this period they could not extend thanks to France's epic win last week.

But Wales are now only one Six Nations crown behind England's seven.

"It gives us a lot of confidence to feel like we're on the right track," the title-winning coach said. "We can't get ahead of ourselves."

This was not a tournament England will reflect on fondly, even as captain Owen Farrell became only the third man - after Ronan O'Gara and Jonny Wilkinson - to reach 500 points in the Five/Six Nations.

Eddie Jones' outfit came in as defending champions but slumped to their joint-worst Six Nations finish, coming fifth as they had in 2018.

England also lost against Ireland, Wales and Scotland in the same Five/Six Nations campaign for the first time since 1976.

At the bottom of the table, though, there was no change.

Italy have picked up the Wooden Spoon in each of the past six years, this after finishing bottom of the championship just once in the prior four seasons.

England confirmed Jofra Archer will undergo hand surgery while he recovers from an elbow injury, as his team-mates prepared for an ODI decider against India.

Archer was ruled out of the ODI series due to a worsening elbow issue and travelled home to the United Kingdom.

The fast bowler has since had a scan and a consultant review, which has prompted the decision to have a procedure on his right hand, while he has also had a further injection for his right elbow.

"The procedure on Jofra's hand will take place on Monday 29 March so he can recover during the planned break following his elbow injection," a statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) read on Saturday.

"Jofra suffered a cut to his hand while cleaning at his home in January shortly before flying to India to prepare for the Test series.

"The injury was managed by the ECB's medical team through the tour and it did not impact on his availability.

"Further investigation and a specialist opinion was sought upon his return to the UK and, in conjunction with the ECB medical panel, it has been decided that surgery is the best option to manage his injury in the longer term."

As well as dealing with Archer's absence, England have been without captain Eoin Morgan since the first ODI after sustaining his own hand injury.

But stand-in skipper Jos Buttler was still waiting on news of the fitness of Sam Billings, who missed the second ODI with a bruised collarbone, and Mark Wood, who was rested.

England lost their four-match Test series against India 3-1 and were then beaten in a Twenty20 International decider to go down 3-2.

Tied at 1-1 ahead of the third and final ODI, Buttler is hoping for better luck as he targets a third successive win as captain for the first time. He has five victories from seven matches so far.

"We want to win all the games we play," he said. "It's great to be in another final, as such. Obviously the T20s went to a decider and this series will do the same.

"They're great games to be involved in, we're all very much looking forward to it. It was an excellent performance [on Friday], so we take lots of confidence into the game on Sunday."

Friday saw England claim a six-wicket win thanks to a superb chase led by Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes.

Bairstow (124), who has now hit an England record 26 sixes against India, had 100-run stands with both fellow opener Jason Roy and Stokes, as the tourists had two century partnerships in the same ODI for the first time since the 2019 Cricket World Cup.

Bairstow and Roy reached the hundred mark for the 13th time in ODIs, the most ever recorded by an England duo, while they have the highest average (61.6) of any opening partnership in the history of the format (20-plus innings).

Led by the pair, England have outscored India 148 to 80 in the powerplays in this series.

"They're right up there, aren't they? Everyone will have their opinions on who's the best, but those two have been fantastic," Buttler said.

"The way they play, the pressure their put on an opposition, and the consistency... the way they do that, the fashion they play, it's quite remarkable really.

"They've created some fantastic stands. I don't know the exact numbers, but I know they're pretty impressive. We're all delighted to have them at the top of the order.

"People talk about the numbers a lot of the time, but for us it's more about the fashion we play in, committing to that and the numbers will always look after themselves."

Stokes certainly plays in the same fashion, his rapid innings seeing 50 runs off the first 40 balls and 49 off the next 11.

Asked how the display ranked among the white-ball efforts of an all-rounder who has averaged 56.4 in ODIs since the start of 2017, Buttler had a cheery response.

"It was certainly pretty impressive, wasn't it? He's had a few," the captain said. "His World Cup final one was pretty good. I enjoyed that one."

Gregor Townsend felt a first win in Paris since 1999 was a fitting finale for one of Scotland's "best-ever seasons" as France missed out on the Six Nations title with a dramatic defeat.

Les Bleus had to secure a bonus-point victory in the final match of the tournament by a margin of at least 21 points to be crowned champions at Stade de France on Friday.

It was Scotland who were celebrated on a wet night in the French capital, though, and Wales took the title after Duhan van der Merwe snatched a stunning 27-23 triumph by scoring his second try of a pulsating contest right at the end.

David Cherry also dotted down in the second half before Finn Russell was shown a red card nine minutes from time for catching Brice Dulin in the throat with his leading arm, having booted 10 points on his return to the side.

Scotland started the tournament with a first win over England at Twickenham since 1983 and ended it with a long-awaited away victory against France.

Townsend's men finished in fourth spot, but the Scotland head coach believes they made great strides this season.

He told BBC One: "I'm so proud of the team. They came here with a bit of adversity with not our full squad, an injury to one of our starters [Matt Fagerson] on Wednesday, a yellow card [for Stuart Hogg], a red card, we had to come back against a very good side, but they showed courage, effort, togetherness, and skill to win.

"A great end to a really promising season for us. Even though we finished fourth, it feels like one of our best-ever seasons with the victories we've had this year and the performances tonight especially.

"That's now been the last two years we've been competitive in every game. We've grown a lot this year, grown a lot this campaign, and we've got to continue to grow over the next few years."

Scotland captain Hogg expressed his pride following a famous win, but was left with mixed feelings.

"Results at times at times have been outstanding, the performances at times have been very good, but we're probably going to be kicking ourselves in the foot with some of the losses," said the full-back.

"We're not going to get carried away, we're going to enjoy this moment and start building towards something memorable.

"I'm the captain of a very, very proud nation and we'll continue to work hard."

Virat Kohli had few complaints about India's performance against England on Friday, acknowledging Ben Stokes and Jonny Bairstow "blew us away".

India set England 337 to win and level the three-match ODI series, a total the tourists sped to carried by Stokes and Bairstow.

While opener Bairstow contributed 124, Stokes stole the show with 99 off just 52 balls - including 49 off the next 11 after reaching his half-century. He has averaged 56.4 over 42 ODI innings since the start of 2017.

The stand of 175 - after Bairstow and Jason Roy had put on 110 for the first wicket - saw England have two hundred partnerships in the same ODI for the first time since the Cricket World Cup in June 2019.

Although Stokes and Bairstow fell in consecutive overs and briefly gave India hope, Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone completed a six-wicket triumph with 39 balls to spare.

"I think we set up quite a decent total on the board," said captain Kohli, who scored 66 and remains one century shy of Sachin Tendulkar's record of 20 in men's ODIs in India.

"But England found a way to get that 100-run partnership and we hardly had any chances come our way.

"I thought they batted brilliantly well tonight. Yes, we did not execute some things as well as we wanted to, but that was some of the most amazing batting that you're going to see while chasing a total.

"You have to give credit where it's due and tonight they totally blew us away with that partnership of Jonny and Ben Stokes.

"We didn't even have a chance, that's how good they were together and they thoroughly deserved to win."

Bairstow has 20 sixes over his past three ODI innings against India and no England batsman has more maximums against them in this format than his 26.

The Yorkshire wicketkeeper was enthused by Kohli's praise, responding: "I'll take that! It's very kind of him to say that.

"He's been one of the best players around the world for a period of time. I'm very pleased, and likewise, pleased to be striking the ball the way I am at the moment."

Bairstow and Roy now have 13 century stands together, the most by an England pairing, while no opening partnership in men's ODIs can top their average of 61.6 (from 20 innings or more).

It is certainly a role Bairstow is enjoying, as he added: "I'm happy. Since opening the batting, I've got 11 [centuries], I think I've only opened 56, 57 times.

"I'm happy with those figures but those figures mean nothing if you don't keep converting them in the future. I'm happy with how I'm playing my cricket at the moment, really enjoying it."

Ben Stokes was proud that England stuck to their values as they roared back from a series-opening defeat to thrash India on Friday.

Moved up to bat at three in the absence of Joe Root, Stokes thrilled with a 52-ball 99 in Pune as the tourists won by six wickets with 39 deliveries to spare, Jonny Bairstow having scored a century as England comfortably chased down India's 336-6.

The result came on the heels of Tuesday's chastening 66-run loss, when England collapsed to 251 all out as Stokes scored just one run from 11 balls, and means the series will go to a decider on Sunday.

Stokes was delighted to see England produce such a classy response to that setback, even in the absence of injured captain Eoin Morgan, as his side stayed true to their attacking principles.

"I think the most pleasing thing for us as a team is we didn't go away from our values," he said, having built on the platform laid by Bairstow and Jason Roy's 110-run opening stand. "We were bitterly disappointed after the first ODI.

"It was a great chase and I'm happy we were able to go over the line fairly easily despite India putting up a big total.

"It was a better wicket but we don't really fear any totals to be honest. It would have been easy to rein ourselves in after the last game but from a personal and team point of view, it was important to play as we do.

"We speak about match-ups in our changing room and my match-up was with the spinners to take the risk, just let Jonny keep going on with his business. He's in unbelievable form.

"The amount of runs they [Roy and Bairstow] have scored is obviously amazing, but if you look at the way they have scored it's even better – best in the world in my opinion."

Pune will again play host to the third and final match this weekend.

England's victory on Friday also ensured that a 3-0 series defeat will be avoided, meaning India cannot leapfrog into top spot in the ODI rankings.

Ben Stokes' stunning innings and a century from Jonny Bairstow led England to a dominant six-wicket ODI victory over India in Pune on Friday.

While Bairstow was unquestionably impressive in compiling his 124, Stokes' 99 came at a blistering pace, requiring just 52 balls as he bludgeoned 10 sixes.

India had set England 337 to win and level the three-match series, with the tourists – deprived of the injured Eoin Morgan's services – wasting little time, getting the job done with 39 balls to spare.

Bairstow and Jason Roy put on 110 for the first wicket to lay the foundations, with the former then enjoying a front-row seat for the Stokes show as they combined for 175 runs.

It meant that, by the time Stokes and Bairstow fell in consecutive overs, England only required another 50 to seal the win, with Dawid Malan and Liam Livingstone finishing things off.

All the fireworks in England's innings eclipsed what had been a solid 50 overs from the hosts, for whom KL Rahul top-scored on 108, with Rishabh Pant providing eye-catching entertainment in the form of a 40-ball 77 to help India to 336-6.

Having put themselves in a strong position to chase down 318 in the first match before collapsing to 251 all out, England made sure they had an even firmer footing this time to ensure a late-innings wobble would not prove pivotal.

Bairstow's 18 boundaries included seven maximums, with Roy's 55 coming at roughly a run a ball to further cement England's excellent start.

Stokes, having survived an early run-out scare, escalated things drastically with a display of explosive hitting that had India chasing their tails.

Krunal Pandya, who enjoyed such a fine debut in the opening clash, came in for particularly harsh punishment as he posted figures of 0-72 off six overs, while Kuldeep Yadav (0-84 off 10) conceded eight sixes, including three in a row at the hands of Stokes in a punishing 33rd over.

England's procession was slowed but not halted by a flurry of wickets across the 36th and 37th overs, with Stokes agonisingly falling short of a deserved century before Bairstow and Jos Buttler also had to go.

But it only delayed the inevitable, Malan and Livingstone steadying the ship and getting England across the line to set up a series decider on Sunday.

 

STOKES CAPITALISES ON LET-OFF

There was a mightily close run-out call against Stokes in the 26th over, when he was on 33.

He soon accelerated his knock at break-neck speed, having brought up his 50 off 40 deliveries before adding another 49 from only 12.

Stokes' dismissal, caught behind by Pant off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, saw him denied the third-fastest century in ODIs for England.

SERIES SET FOR FINALE IT DESERVES

This was a mouthwatering series on paper, pitting the world's best two one-day teams against one another, and it has delivered on the field across the first two matches.

World champions England flexed their muscles on Friday, having been chastened by an opening loss in which India showed why they are so highly fancied.

A winner will be crowned this weekend and, having seen the best of both sides, how fitting it would be if they could each bring their 'A' game on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate urged "hungry" England to maintain the high standards they set in a 5-0 World Cup qualifying hammering of San Marino but felt they should have been more clinical.

The Three Lions cruised to victory in the first Group I match at Wembley on Thursday, dominating the lowest-ranked side in international football.

James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring with his first England goal, while Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored twice and stand-in captain Raheem Sterling was also on target with Harry Kane watching on from the bench.

Ollie Watkins came on score a dream debut goal seven minutes from time in Southgate's 50th game as manager of his country, as England started their bid to qualify for the 2022 tournament in Qatar by securing three points at a canter.

Southgate knows England ought to have won by a greater margin, as they had 32 shots and 84.7 per cent possession, but he was impressed with the way they went about their business and said San Marino goalkeeper Elia Benedettini deserved great credit after making some fine saves.

"I think of course a game that we were expected to win comfortably, but I was particularly pleased with the mentality for the full 90 minutes. I think the way we pressed the ball when we lost it was the biggest indication of that," said the England boss.

"The whole team were hungry to play and sometimes these games have been stodgy for us in the past, but I think this team can play slightly differently.

"We have some creative players who can open teams up and a lot of those chances were created by the good pressing and winning the ball high up the pitch, but also some of the interchange of position and the vision of players.

"If we were to be ultra-critical we probably should have scored more, but we also have to say their goalkeeper had an absolutely fantastic game.

"I was very pleased, because the behaviours and the habits we showed, to be a top team we have to show those every day, in every training session and in every match.

"Today we respected the game and we went about it in the right way."

Next up for England is a trip to Tirana to face Albania on Sunday.

Ollie Watkins was in dreamland after coming off the bench to score on his England debut in a 5-0 World Cup qualifying defeat of San Marino at Wembley.

Watkins completed the scoring as the Three Lions started their quest to win Group I and seal automatic qualification for the 2022 tournament in Qatar with a victory that should have been more emphatic.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored twice after James Ward-Prowse put England in front with his first senior international goal and Raheem Sterling - named as captain with Harry Kane on the bench - was also on target.

Watkins came on to replace Calvert-Lewin after 63 minutes and the Aston Villa striker grasped his chance, firing home from just inside the penalty area seven minutes from time.

The 25-year-old's goal came from his only shot, although the forward also created a chance, and he savoured such a special moment on his international bow.

Asked about his debut goal, Watkins told ITV Sport: "Unbelievable, what I have dreamt about. All day in the hotel I was just thinking that I hope to get a chance to come on, enjoy it and get the opportunity to score. I'm speechless to be honest.

"It's been a good journey. I just feel honoured that I can come out here and play for my country with these players and score on my debut. Over the moon. I just wanted to get on pitch for a start. I have and can't believe it.

"I'm going to take each game as it comes, focus on my club form, play consistently for Aston Villa, score for them, help the team push up the table and hopefully get into Europe and take it from there."

Calvert-Lewin expressed his delight for fellow frontman Watkins.

The Everton striker said: "He's been really sharp, he’s a nice lad, it’s the first time I've come across him. I know what it feels like, not too long ago, to step into the squad and the feeling he’ll have now, scoring on his debut is something that he'll always have dreamed of.

"He came in a little bit late, we all gave him a bit of a clap and he'll have a big smile on his face. I'm very happy for him."

The Three Lions had 32 shots - 15 on target - in Gareth Southgate's 50th match in charge against a side propping up with FIFA rankings, but Calvert-Lewin was not impressed to be asked if they should have been more clinical.

He said: "You're [the media] never happy, are you? We scored five, maybe it could have been more. I could have scored more, we had a couple more chances to be more clinical, but it's still the three points at the end of the day."

England had nine 'big chances', from which they would be expected to score, and missed seven of them.

Calvert-Lewin was guilty of two misses, although his two goals also each came from such opportunities, while Jesse Lingard (twice), Sterling, John Stones and Jude Bellingham failed to convert, too.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin struck twice and Ollie Watkins scored a debut goal as England started their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of San Marino at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate was able to celebrate his 50th match as manager of his country with a Group I victory which should have been much more emphatic on Thursday.

James Ward-Prowse opened the scoring with his first senior international goal before Calvert-Lewin and Raheem Sterling got in on the act in a first half that saw England waste a host of clear-cut chances.

Calvert-Lewin doubled his tally early in the second half and substitute Watkins was on target on his Three Lions bow on another tough night for a San Marino team sitting at the bottom of the FIFA rankings, with much bigger tests to come for England on the road to Qatar 2022.

San Marino were chasing shadows from the start, but Calvert-Lewin somehow failed to convert Reece James' cross and Sterling – named as captain with Harry Kane on the bench – was off target with two close-range headers.

It was only a matter of time before England took the lead and Ward-Prowse was the man to put them in front, sweeping home Ben Chilwell's cutback with his left foot 14 minutes in.

Calvert-Lewin doubled their advantage by nodding in James' inviting cross and Chilwell's rasping drive was superbly tipped over by Elia Benedettini before Sterling punished San Marino for trying to play out from the back, cutting inside before finding the net with a deflected right-foot finish.

England were relentless, with Mason Mount pulling the strings, and the recalled Jesse Lingard scuffed wastefully wide from close range before he was denied by a brilliant save from Benedettini late in the first half.

Southgate made four changes at the break, with Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden among the quartet to come on and Sterling handing the armband to Conor Coady.

It was all too easy for England as Calvert-Lewin tapped in the lively Lingard's cross in the 53rd minute, but there was to be no hat-trick for the Everton striker as he was replaced by Watkins.

Ward-Prowse came close to a second when Benedettini produced another fine save to keep out the midfielder's whipped free-kick and Watkins volleyed into the turf and over the crossbar moments later.

Watkins was not to be denied seven minutes from time, though, controlling the ball just inside the area and drilling home with his right foot.

England's World Cup qualifier with Albania in Tirana on Sunday is in doubt amid concerns over security.

Local police informed the Albanian Football Association (AFA) that they could not guarantee the safety of the two sides for the Group I encounter at the Air Albania Stadium.

The AFA had asked for a restricted number of fans who have received a coronavirus vaccination to be allowed into the venue, but the government refused that request.

With police unable to offer assurances over the safety of players outside the ground, with no lockdown restrictions in place, the AFA is concerned the fixture may have to be cancelled.  

An AFA statement said: "Today a letter arrived at the Albanian Football Federation which states that the structures of the local police directorate of Tirana do not guarantee the taking of measures before, during and after the Albania-England match on 28 March.

"Faced with the situation where the state authorities did not react after the request of the Albanian Football Federation for the release of spaces on the perimeter of the national stadium, we request urgent response of these structures.

"The cancellation of the Albania-England match scheduled to be played at Air Albania Stadium would have catastrophic consequences for the image of our country, the national team and in general for Albanian football."

A spokesman for the English Football Association said ahead of England's first qualifier against San Marino on Thursday: "We continue to liaise with the relevant authorities."

 

 

 

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