Saka Shines as England get Seven
June 19th, 2023 | Football
Written by Jack Dixon
Another match in Euro qualifying and another win for England, thumping North Macedonia 7-0 at Old Trafford.
The win against Malta was impressive, but it was slightly scrappy and there was, at times, a lack of intensity in the final-third to truly put Malta to the sword. But England went for it tonight and were dominant.
The three lions were in control for the entirety of the match, having 68% possession, creating plenty of chances in both halves and, for the second match running, did not concede a shot on Jordan Pickford’s goal.
There was also a noticeable balance and sense of control with the Starting XI.
The back-four of Luke Shaw, Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker is a backline that has played together many times before and looked both settled and solid yet again, which are positive signs in any defence.
The midfield three of Rice sitting with Jordan Henderson and Trent Alexander-Arnold operating as no.8s was extremely impressive. That three seem to be working really well both in and out of possession and, with all due respect to Henderson, I believe having Jude Bellingham in there with Rice and Alexander-Arnold has the potential to be a formidable trio.
The front three (surprisingly starting together for the first time) of Marcus Rashford, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka looked dangerous on paper and proved to be in the match, with all three getting on the scoresheet and threatening the North Macedonia defence throughout.
The scoring began at 29 minutes as captain Kane finished first time following a Luke Shaw cross. England then got their second as Saka blasted in a right-footed effort beyond Stole Dimitrievski in the North Macedonia goal. The three lions got a third before half-time as a well-executed England high press resulted in Jordan Henderson receiving the ball in the box who passed to Rashford who finished first time.
England continued their ruthless streak heading into the second half as Alexander-Arnold found Bukayo Saka with a stunning ball over the top. England’s no.7 then juggled the ball before firing in a stunning effort from outside the box. Saka was hungry for more, as minutes later Harry Kane played a through ball towards him, Saka kept his composure, finishing one-on-one against the goalkeeper to get his hat trick (the first of his career).
At 5-0, Gareth Southgate opted to flex his squad depth, bringing on Conor Gallagher, Jack Grealish, Phil Foden and Kalvin Philips.
It was two of those substitutes who got England their sixth. Grealish’s cross from the left was not dealt with by the North Macedonia defence, with the ball falling kindly for Philips, who tapped in his first England goal at 64 minutes.
England’s final goal of the night came after John Stones was brought down by North Macedonia’s Egzon Bejtulai for an England penalty. Harry Kane stepped up and smashed in his second of the evening and 58th goal for his country.
Two games, two wins, 11 goals scored, no shots conceded and more positive development all make for another productive international break for the three lions.
England are next in action this September when they face Ukraine away from home.