England 2-0 Lithuania: Jermain Defoe marks return to international football with a goal as Three Lions edge closer to World Cup 2018 qualification

England’s strikers, Jermain Defoe and Jamie Vardy, did the damage, but it could be argued the most significant goal for Gareth Southgate on Sunday was scored across the other side of Europe, in Baku.
Dimitrij Nazarov, a midfielder for Azerbaijan and Bundesliga 2 club Erzgebirge Aue, scored against Germany. When he did it made Southgate’s England the only team in UEFA World Cup qualifying not to have conceded a goal. A record that did not look particularly likely to be broken against Lithuania, it must be said.

This was as close to a stroll as Southgate’s men will get, without being granted the absolute walkover of a match against, say, San Marino. Lithuania’s best chance only came about because a linesman did not do his job, and by the time Vardy scored England’s second after 66 minutes this was little more than a training exercise with benefits.

The Leicester man had only been on six minutes when he put the ball, the game and Lithuania to bed. Kyle Walker played in Adam Lallana who hit a lovely little pass inside to Vardy, losing his man and slipping the ball past goalkeeper Ernestas Setkus, an excellent goal.

And so England’s complete domination of qualifying continues. It was 2009 when they last lost a match at this stage of a competition – and that a dead rubber in Ukraine, having already progressed – and sharper finishing could have given the win a more dominant air.

Raheem Sterling should have scored at the far post after 48 minutes, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had a curling shot well saved on 53 and Marcus Rashford could have added a third with a neat trouble in the final minute of normal time.

It is hard to imagine what might trouble England in this group, although qualifying has not been the problem of late. The fans are already singing about going to Moscow for the finals. That’s when the trouble usually starts – and clean sheets are harder to come by.


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