England took their tally to 10 goals in their opening two Euro 2020 qualifiers with a resounding 5-1 win over Montenegro on Monday night.
That came the in wake of Friday evening’s impressive 5-0 drubbing of the Czech Republic at Wembley.
After “controlling the game” (i.e. passing the ball veeeeery slowly across the defence) for the opening quarter of an hour, England fell behind on 17 minutes when a Montenegrin break culminated in Marko Vesovic bundling his way into the 18-yard box and arching a smart finish around Jordan Pickford.
The goal finally woke England up from their torpor and it wasn’t long before the tide of the game turned irrevocably.
Michael steered home an inviting Ross Barkley freekick to equalise on the half-an-hour mark with his first senior international goal and – as Everton fans will duly attest – his first header on target all season.
The Three Lions then took the lead just eight minutes later when Barkley got the final touch to a Callum Hudson-Odoi shot that might just have been sneaking inside the post anyway.
Barkley then made it three for England after the break when the Chelsea midfielder found himself in the right place at the right time to ram home a ball that had broken loose in the Montenegro box.
Harry Kane then scored his obligatory goal to make it four for England in the 71st minute.
Declan Rice stepped in to break up an Montenegrin attack before a sumptuous pass from Barkley set Sterling scampering off on the chase, who squared the ball for Kane to tap into a near-empty net.
Sterling then added a fifth to take his own personal international goal-count up to four in two games.
Keep an eye out for another inch-perfect, defence-cleaving through-ball from Jordan Henderson in the immediate build-up.
Whisper it but quietly, almost without fanfare, Henderson has become one of the most important, influential players in Southgate’s nouvelle equipe d’Angleterre.
After poking home, Sterling then made a point of celebrating by making ‘monkey ears’ to the Montenegro ultras behind the goal who had been targeting several England players with racist abuse throughout the night.
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) 25 March 2019
Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live after the final whistle, Sterling was once again at his ambassadorial best when discussing the venomous atmosphere emanating from certain sections of the stadium in Podgorica.
A couple of idiots ruined a great night and it is a real sad thing to hear. It’s a real sad situation we are talking about after a great win.
I don’t think it was just one or two people that heard it, it was the whole bench. There should be a real punishment for this, not just the two or three people who were doing it – it needs to be a collective thing.
This place holds 15,000. The punishment should be, whatever nation it is, if your fans are chanting racist abuse then it should be the whole stadium so no-one can come and watch.
When the ban is lifted, the fans will think twice. They all love football, they all want to come and watch their nation so it will make them think twice before doing something silly like that.
Southgate echoed the sentiment, again calling on the relevant authorities to retaliate with punishments beyond and above negligible fines.
It’s a sad evening. I’m not the authority on the subject. I’m a middle-aged white guy talking about racism. I just want my players to enjoy their experiences. If I’ve not done enough, I’m sorry for that.
Sanctions are meaningless without education. And we have the same problem in our country. We have to make sure we educate young people.
The England manager also confirmed that he now plans to report the abuse fully via the proper channels.
Anyone out there have any expectations beyond UEFA/FIFA administering the Montenegrin Football Federation with a paltry €5,000 fine in six months time?
Anybody? No? Nah, us neither.