England’s victory was the sort that should be achieved against an Andorra side nestling between New Caledonia and the Dominican Republic in the world rankings.
It was as routine and comfortable as it gets in international football, but there was still plenty riding on this for some England players.
In Andorra’s picturesque Estadi Nacional, the Three Lions’ smooth passage towards the World Cup in Qatar continued uninterrupted – and there are still places up for grabs in manager Gareth Southgate’s team and squad.
That is why, even though Andorra are down at 156th place in those international listings, it was an important night for the likes of Tammy Abraham and Jadon Sancho.
It was also a night when Manchester City’s Phil Foden played at such an elite level that it is impossible to see how Southgate can leave him out of any England starting XI.
Abraham has had a new lease of life since deciding to leave Chelsea and join Jose Mourinho at Roma, scoring four goals in 10 appearances. But the pressure was on the 24-year-old to hit the target after his late call-up to England’s squad.
England strikers must score against Andorra if they want to make a statement in the fight for a place, and Abraham had his chance with Harry Kane rested along with Raheem Sterling, and with the captain’s usual deputy Dominic Calvert-Lewin injured.
Southgate also has Ollie Watkins, Marcus Rashford and eventually Mason Greenwood at his disposal. It is not a battle Abraham will find easy to win.
He had a tough night at times as he struggled to get on the end of opportunities when England dominated, but his prize for persistence was a 59th-minute goal as he showed good movement to sneak on to Sancho’s cross and beat the stranded Andorra keeper Josep Gomes.
It was not a totally convincing display, but his goal will do his confidence the world of good and remind Southgate of the qualities he can offer as he starts to revive his international career after making the move to Italy.
The strike also made Abraham the first England player to score while playing for a Serie A side since David Platt, who was on target for his country while playing for Sampdoria in 1995.
A satisfying night for Sancho
Sancho is another facing fierce competition for his place in England’s attacking ranks, so also needed to make an impact. And he did.
The 21-year-old is still finding his feet after his £73m move to Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund, but he has shown signs of settling down recently and this was a satisfactory performance.
Sancho was progressive in possession and made a smart run to get on the end of Foden’s pass to set up Ben Chilwell for England’s opener. He also delivered the assist for Abraham’s goal. The only downside was his involvement in one or two unnecessary spats, picking up a needless booking for kicking the ball away.
Southgate has many options for the wide positions, with Jack Grealish also in contention and Foden’s brilliant versatility meaning he can operate there. But Sancho took his chance and can be pleased with his night’s work.
Foden suffered the disappointment of missing out on England’s Euro 2020 final against Italy with a foot injury, but if they are to go anywhere near repeating that feat in the World Cup in Qatar, he will be central to all of Southgate’s plans.
He has moved his game, which was outstanding anyway, to another level this season and looks even stronger and quicker.
All praise must be shaped in the context of England’s Andorran opponents, but Foden had the game on a string in the first half, playing in a “quarterback” role in midfield, directing passes and the flow of the game in exquisite fashion.
Foden ran the show and, coming on top of his form for Manchester City this season, simply has to have a place in England’s starting line-up. It was Andorra, yes – but Foden is a superstar in waiting.
Johnstone shows quality in goal
And if we are looking for a cameo then credit goes to England goalkeeper Sam Johnstone.
It is tough for any England goalkeeper to make any contribution against Andorra because you are destined to spend most of the game standing alone in your own half. Here, Johnstone put his stamp on the game in an attacking sense when he showed great vision and an outstanding throwing arm to set Grealish away for England’s fifth.
Southgate likes his keepers to offer an option with their distribution, so Johnstone’s delivery will certainly have been noted by his manager.
As for the game itself, it was predictably one-sided and once more offered up fodder for the old argument about the worth of sending countries such as Andorra out against England in World Cup qualifiers.
Andorra were only ever going to lose. It was just a question of by how many, and it is hard to work out what benefit they get from playing England or any other countries in the higher echelons and losing heavily on such a regular basis.
It certainly meant something to England players like Abraham and Sancho, though – and they will hope they have provided Southgate with food for thought as he prepares to finalise his plans for next year’s World Cup.