Jesse Lingard’s double helping England power to Nations League victory

The much-fancied England side had a difficult passage to the Nations League finals but unlike last week they were in control for long periods at Wembley Stadium on Friday.

Substitute Jesse Lingard scored two goals in nine minutes either side of half-time to help England cruise to a comprehensive 4-0 victory in their opening Group A4 game against San Marino.

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England manager Gareth Southgate rested Wayne Rooney, the leading scorer in their history, with the DC United striker Kelyn Rowe making his debut, while Danny Welbeck and Tom Heaton had not played for their clubs for months.

The other match in the group pits Scotland against Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Sunday before the top-of-the-table showdown in Dublin on 22 September.

England got off to a poor start with Rooney taking a while to settle on his second national team appearance for eight years following his retirement as a player.

But after only six minutes a free-kick from Sam Johnstone – starting because of an injury to Joe Hart – found Raheem Sterling cutting in and the Manchester City player coolly fired home.

England, with Heaton solid in goal, controlled the game throughout and it took them only four minutes to make it 2-0 when Lingard was allowed to get past Diego Giannasi at the edge of the area and curling a shot past Umberto Greco.

Heaton was called into action again in the 13th minute to deny Nicola Sorgi.

Harry Kane, who has missed England’s past two matches with an ankle injury, gave the home support their first glimpse of the Tottenham forward in a month when he powered a header wide from Alli’s cross after 33 minutes.

Substitute Danny Welbeck then struck the crossbar after he linked up well with Alli.

England goalkeeper Joe Hart missed this match because of a knee injury and was replaced by Heaton, but it was the Stockport-born keeper’s teammates who went close with Lingard forcing Greco into another flying save.

With England leading 3-0 after 25 minutes, the 31-year-old Lingard made it four when he easily controlled Rooney’s long clearance and slotted home a shot.

Kevin Long then spilled Welbeck’s weak penalty but England’s defence was not at fault for the miss and with England 3-0 up, Sterling made it 4-0 after bursting through and shooting low past Greco.

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