• Euro wrap: England, France off to winning start in Euro qualifiers

    England crushed the Czech Republic 5-0 at Wembley with hat-trick hero Raheem Sterling taking centre stage, while France scored three goals in 12 first-half minutes as they made a winning start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign in Moldova.

    England vs Czech Republic

    Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as England made an impressive start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday.

    Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions qualified for the Nations League Finals in their most recent game late last year, and the four-month break since does not appear to have done them any harm, as Sterling inspired an easy victory.

    With Marcus Rashford injured, Southgate handed a first senior start to Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho and he made a strong impact, setting up Sterling’s opener, before the Manchester City star won a penalty that Harry Kane converted.

    The Czech Republic started the second half better, but two goals in six minutes from Sterling ended any slim hopes of a fightback, while Tomas Kalas’ own goal rounded off an abysmal outing for the visitors. 

    England were dealt the blow of losing Eric Dier to injury in the 17th minute, with Ross Barkley replacing him.

    But the hosts took the lead soon after at the end of a sequence of 25 passes, with Kane’s incisive ball finding the run of Sancho to square across the face of goal for Sterling to knock home.

    Sterling – who went into the match with only four international goals to his name – threatened again just before the break, winning a penalty after a combination of Kalas and Pavel Kaderabek blocked him off, and Kane made no mistake with the spot-kick.

    The away side showed some positive intent after the interval, but goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka was helpless to prevent England increasing their lead just past the hour as a pass ricocheted to Sterling in the area and he curled home a left-footed effort after a clever turn.

    Sterling completed his treble 22 minutes from time when his long-range strike deflected in off Ondrej Celustka, and Callum Hudson-Odoi replaced him soon after to become England’s youngest competitive debutant.

    The Chelsea winger played a role in the final goal as his shot was parried by Pavlenka and Kalas put the ball into his own net with a woeful first touch, completing a humiliating match for the Czech Republic.

    Moldova vs France

    A flurry of first-half goals ensured a full-strength France side made a winning start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as they beat Moldova 4-1 in Chisinau.

    Didier Deschamps took no chances against a side ranked 170 in the world, starting the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Paul Pogba, and France had the three points secured with three goals in the opening 36 minutes.

    Griezmann volleyed in the first after a clever one-two with Pogba before Raphael Varane headed home from a corner. Olivier Giroud then turned in Blaise Matuidi’s cross for his 34th French goal, moving him level with David Trezeguet in third in the country’s all-time top scorers.

    Mbappe then added a fourth with a sharp first-time finish late on to complete a comfortable night for the reigning World Cup holders, whose clean sheet was ruined by substitute Vladimir Ambros scoring an 89th-minute consolation.

    For the first 24 minutes, France barely had a sniff of goal, but 12 minutes later they had put the put the game to bed with three goals in swift succession.

    The first was the pick of the bunch, Griezmann rolling the ball into Pogba and continuing his run to get on the end of the Manchester United midfielder’s chipped pass, the Atletico Madrid forward then firing an unstoppable volley into the net.

    Oleg Reabciuk almost handed the world champions a second when he volleyed Layvin Kurzawa’s cross just wide of his own goal, but from the resulting corner France scored anyway as Varane’s header from Griezmann’s near-post corner could not be stopped by defender Ion Jardan at the back post.

    Mbappe’s weak finish prevented Griezmann from claiming a second assist, though France were soon 3-0 up as an unmarked Giroud got a faint touch on Matuidi’s cross with a volley.

    While Deschamps’ side took their foot off the accelerator after the break, Pogba was still twice denied by Alexei Koselev, the second save a brilliant one-handed stop to a header from Griezmann’s free-kick.

    Mbappe eventually got in on the act three minutes from time, profiting after good pressure from substitute Thomas Lemar. It was not the final goal of the game as Ambros pounced when the ball came back off a post from Vitalie Damascan’s header.

    Referee Aleksandar Stavrev then correctly booked Mbappe for diving to try and win a penalty as Koselev rushed out in stoppage time.

    You may also like