International

Internationals: James shines in big England win, Gilmour helps Scotland continue World Cup dream but pain for Jorginho

England, with two Chelsea players in their starting line-up, took a big step on Friday night towards automatic qualification for the Qatar World Cup, while Billy Gilmour and Scotland now know they can make the tournament next year if they are successful in the play-offs after securing second place in their group.

There was another victory for Andreas Christensen and Denmark but Italy still have work to do to claim first position in their group after Jorginho missed a 90th-minute penalty.

England cruised to a 5-0 victory over Albania at Wembley with all the goals coming in the first half. For Chelsea fans, there was little surprise to see our in-form wing-backs Reece James and Ben Chilwell both selected by Gareth Southgate. Mason Mount was unavailable following his dental operation.

Armando Broja, currently on loan at Southampton, was ruled out of a place in the Albania attack due to a minor muscle injury, and his nation struggled with England racing into a big early lead.

The excellent James made his presence felt inside 10 minutes when he curled in a free-kick superbly for Harry Maguire to head the Three Lions ahead from close range. James was involved too in the move that led to the second goal soon after, another headed strike, this time from Harry Kane.

Before that goal, a Kyle Walker mistake led to a one-on-one, saved by Jordan Pickford, and visitors to Wembley did not come close to scoring again.

Jordan Henderson made it 3-0 before half-an-hour was up when England cut through the middle of the Albanian defence. A flying save prevented Kane making it 4-0 soon after but the England captain did just that with another couple of minutes played, a left-footed finished from that side of the goal.

Kane was just wide with a couple of hat-trick chances before the interval, the second from a James cross, but on the verge of the half-time whistle he volleyed in a corner to make it 5-0.

Midway through the second half, there was a clash of heads between James and John Stones which floored both players. After treatment, they continued and the Chelsea man shot wide with his next involvement but not that long after he was withdrawn.

Chilwell played the whole game and although less prominent as an attacking force than his club colleague, he put in a tidy display and was rarely tested in his defensive work.

If England avoid defeat against San Marino on Monday they are guaranteed a place at the World Cup. Even with an England defeat, second-place Poland would have to win at home to Hungary and overcome a goal difference deficit of six.

Gilmour and Scotland achieve their aim

Earlier in the day, Scotland earned themselves a place in the play-offs with a 2-0 win and Billy Gilmour played in his first football match since the last international break. Steve Clarke named the 20-year-old in his starting line-up away in Moldova.

Scotland made the early running in the first half and although their opponents came back into the contest, Gilmour and his team-mates went in at the break 1-0 up thanks to a goal shortly before half-time. It was scored by Rangers’ full-back Nathan Patterson with a run and diagonal strike from the right.

Scotland had the ball in the net inside the first three minutes but that first effort was offside. Gilmour then struck a swerving shot from the edge of the area which was beaten out, followed by further Scotland threats with saves from Stuart Armstrong and Andy Robertson shots.

Craig Gordon at the other end made an even better save from a Moldova header but then the Scots took the lead and from then on they dominated.

Che Adams could have added to the lead just after half-time and later had a goal ruled out for offside. Gilmour was becoming a stronger and stronger presence in the game, especially with his running with the ball, and only a last-ditch block prevented him scoring just before the Scotland second goal.

That came midway through the half when Adams finished from a low Patterson cross.

Gilmour, whose contribution was being recognised in song from the Tartan Army, was on some of the corners and from one it needed a clearance off the line to keep out a header from Liam Cooper. Our on-loan midfielder then scuffed a shot wide.

A handball by Patterson gave Moldova a late penalty but a nervous finish to the game was avoided when Gordon saved it.

Another win for Christensen

Denmark were already guaranteed to top the group Scotland are in and they continued their perfect campaign with their ninth win, 3-1 at home to Faroe Islands. Andreas Christensen was in the defence.

The Danes had a 1-0 lead at half-time, given to them by Bologna’s Andreas Skov Olsen with a far-post finish after the Faroes’ keeper had lost his footing on a soggy pitch.

Christensen had a second-half shot saved before Jacob Bruun Larsen made it 2-0, finishing off a counter-attack from close range. Denmark’s remarkable record of not having conceded was ended in the 89th-minute when the Faroes scored but the two-goal winning margin was restored deep in stoppage time by Joakim Maehle.

Scotland and Denmark finish their qualification campaigns when they face each other in Glasgow on Monday.
 

Italy held at home

There was a shock start for group-leaders Italy at home to Switzerland when they conceded after just 11 minutes with a sharp finish from Mainz player Silvan Widmer.

Jorginho and Emerson Palmieri both started for the European champions and it was our left-back, currently on loan at Lyon, who proved a major attacking threat. He advanced and crossed for a Jorginho shot that was blocked, leading to a good save.

Italy did equalise before half-time when a free-kick was bravely headed in by Giovanni Di Lorenzo, the goal given by Premier League referee Anthony Taylor after a VAR check for offside.

The game in Rome was heading towards a draw before Italy had a major chance to win it close to the end. A shove in the back of Domenico Berardi was judged worthy of a penalty after Taylor had been instructed to view the incident on the screen, but Jorginho struck the spot-kick well over the bar.

Italy and Switzerland are tied at the top of their group on points with the Azzurri having a +2 better goal difference. With one game to go to claim top spot, they play away against Northern Ireland on Monday with the Swiss hosting Bulgaria.

At junior international level, Academy goalkeeper Lucas Bergstrom remained on the bench as Finland Under-21s went down 3-1 away to Norway, leaving them in fourth in their Euro championship qualification group.

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