LONDON (AP) — Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Danny Ings and Conor Coady scored their first England goals in a 3-0 victory over Wales in a friendly on Thursday when international football returned to Wembley after 11 months.
It was the least experienced lineup deployed by England in four decades, with only 54 international appearances among the starting XI and Calvert-Lewin one of two players making their debuts.
Reproducing the form with Everton that earned him a first call-up, the striker took only 26 minutes to head in from Jack Grealish’s cross inside an empty north London stadium.
“It is a shame there are no fans here to celebrate, and my family could have been here, so bittersweet in that sense,” the 23-year-old Calvert-Lewin said. “I have worked very hard to get here, it has felt like a long road.”
It included a spell playing non-league football before breaking into the Premier League and also featuring in in a World Cup final win for England’s under-20 team in 2017.
“He had excellent presence, his runs were a threat, he presses well,” England coach Gareth Southgate said. “He’s an all-round center forward and I’ve always liked his general play. It’s the goals he’s adding now that are making another level of player.”
While finding the target was anticipated of a player who now has 10 goals in seven matches for club and country, Coady making the scoresheet was not expected.
But the defender, who has only one goal in five years for Wolverhampton Wanderers, got on the end of Kieran Trippier’s free kick with a half-volley eight minutes into the second half of his second England appearance.
“I am still in a bit of shock,” said the 27-year-old Coady, who ended the game as captain. “It will live with me forever. It will be on repeat in my house with my kids. It is an amazing night for me.”
The most spectacular of the three goals came from the player who had to wait the longest to make his mark for England.
Meeting Tyrone Mings’ cross, Ings sent an overhead kick past goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey in the 63rd minute.
Having first been called up for international duty in 2015, this was only the third time the 28-year-old Southampton striker had worn the Three Lions jersey and his first start.
It was an experimental starting lineup, with Southgate’s main priority the Nations League games against Belgium on Sunday and Denmark on Wednesday.
“There is opportunity there for them to grab a place and push themselves up the pecking order,” Southgate said. “Several did that and there is competition for places.”
Tammy Abraham, Ben Chilwell and Jadon Sancho could return for the upcoming games after being excluded as part of medical precautions for breaching coronavirus guidelines at a weekend gathering.
Three games are being squeezed in over the next week as countries catch up on games postponed earlier in the pandemic.
While fans are still being shut out of Wembley, supporters are returning to stadiums elsewhere in Europe, with thousands attending in Brussels to see Belgium draw 1-1 with the Ivory Coast in a friendly. Michy Batshuayi’s opener for the hosts was canceled out by Franck Kessié’s penalty in the 87th minute which ended Belgium’s run of 12 successive victories.
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