England vs Andorra
England didn’t have any trouble on their visit to Andorra, with Gareth Southgate’s side claiming a comprehensive 5-0 win away from home to step closer to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
The Three Lions are four points clear at the top of Group I now and a win in their next game will seal qualification.
Southgate made changes on Saturday, and Atletico Madrid’s Kieran Trippier was the captain on the night, while Roma’s Tammy Abraham made the starting XI as he returned to the international setup after an impressive start to life in Italy.
Ben Chilwell’s first international goal gave England the lead with just over a quarter of an hour played, as Phil Foden had already started to take full control of the game.
Abraham then got his goal, as did Bukayo Saka, James Ward-Prowse, and Jack Grealish.
Harry Kane was kept on the bench in an attempt to look after his fitness and keep him off the artificial pitch, meaning his record of having scored in every qualification game he’s played in since 2017 is maintained.
Scotland vs Israel
So much for tight, grim affairs between Scotland and Israel – The seventh meeting in three years broke the mould of anything that had come before.
This was a breathless encounter, a game for the ages, befitting the long-awaited return of a capacity crowd to this stadium.
The final act was the defining one. Scott McTominay knew little about the goal which sent Scotland to within a touching distance of a World Cup play-off. He bundled a John McGinn corner home to send Steve Clarke into raptures.
Scotland now lead Israel by four points in Group F and, should Clarke’s men see off the Faroe Islands and Moldova in upcoming fixtures, second place behind Denmark will be theirs.
The visit of the Danes to Glasgow in November would, in that situation, be irrelevant.
“The first half wasn’t good enough. The second was a lot better,” McGinn said.
“It could have been quite easy at half-time to fold but it’s a home game and we wanted to send the fans home happy. It’s been a couple of years since they’ve had a day like today but I’m sure they’ll have smiles on their faces.”
“They could have easily gone to the pub but they decided to stick with us. It was probably as good an atmosphere as I’ve heard here for years.”
Head coach Steve Clarke echoed those sentiments, suggesting the roar that reverberated around Hampden when it was indicated there would be six minutes of stoppage time gave his players “that extra bit of impetus.”
Clarke revealed that a few harsh words were said at the interval, with his side trailing 2-1 and facing the prospect of being overtaken in the group by the Israelis.
“I told them ‘if you do want to lose the game, you’re doing it in the perfect fashion,” he said.
“The talk was really just that we have to play it our way, play with more tempo, a little bit more ambition, control the game better.”
“We did that from the start of the second half more or less to the 96th minute and we got our reward. And on a night where we needed to score three goals, we scored three goals. For the confidence of the group, I think that’s a big thing.”
McGinn cautioned fans about getting too excited – “being a fan, I’ve seen it before” – but was bullish about Scotland’s future under Clarke.
“There’s a real momentum and belief around the team now,” he said.
“We feel the belief in the country as well. We’ll stay humble and not get carried away but it does look nice for us.”
“We’ve got strength in depth and it’s not a team that’s going away. Nathan [Patterson] and Billy [Gilmour] are two players who will play for Scotland for the next 10 years at least, so it is a really exciting time. Hopefully, we can get ourselves to Qatar.”
Azerbaijan vs The Republic of Ireland
Callum Robinson’stwo lovely goals helped to earn the country’s first competitive win under Stephen Kenny, at the 13th attempt.
Chiedozie Ogbene, the Rotherham winger who made history on his debut in June by becoming the first Africa-born player to represent Ireland at senior level, rounded off the scoring with a fine late header.
Even though Ireland spurned chances to win by even more, this was a welcome demonstration of efficiency, a quality they have recently lacked. The result does not revive hopes of World Cup qualification but it will do a power of good to confidence in Kenny and his team.
The manager came into the game under increasing pressure to deliver a win to complement encouraging recent performances and the important rebuilding work he has done.
A meeting with the only country below them in Group A was an opportunity that should be taken even if Azerbaijan frustrated Ireland by drawing in Dublin in September.
In the seventh minute, Robinson made his mark in spectacular style. James McClean made the opening with a slinky feint and pass. Robinson did the rest, taking a touch with his right foot before whacking a crisp left-footed shot high into the net from the edge of the area.
Idah helped Ireland get back onto the front foot on the half-hour, bounding down the right and sending over a cross that Robinson volleyed narrowly wide.
Robinson doubled Ireland’s lead seven minutes before the break, dodging past Maksim Medvedev at the edge of the box and then wrapping his right foot round a shot that took a nick off Hojjat Haghverdi on its way past the goalkeeper’s flimsy dive.
Haghverdi made a better intervention just after the break when he denied McClean a goal after a superb 60-yard run. Ireland grew more dominant and created several opportunities to make it 3-0. Shane Duffy nodded wide from six yards after a cross by the irrepressible Robinson, who later missed two good chances to complete a hat-trick.
Courtesy: MARCA, the Guardian and BBC