Gareth Southgate praises England’s ‘top team’ attitude in San Marino rout

Gareth Southgate praised England for not taking San Marino lightly after they began their World Cup qualifying campaign with a comfortable 5-0 win over the lowest-ranked team in the world.

Although the England manager was unhappy with how many chances went begging, he had no complaints about how his players approached the game. Southgate, who expects his side’s trip to Albania on Sunday to go ahead despite reports that the game was in danger of being called off, was delighted with the performance on a memorable night for Ollie Watkins, who came off the bench to score on his international debut.

“It’s a game we’re expected to win comfortably,” Southgate said. “But I was pleased with the mentality for the full 90 minutes. The way we pressed the ball when we lost it was the biggest indication of that. Sometimes these games have been stodgy for us in the past but I think this team can play slightly differently.

“If we were to be ultra critical we probably should have scored more but we also have to say their goalkeeper had a fantastic game. I was very pleased because the behaviours and the habits we showed, to be a top team we have to show those every day in every training session and in every match. Today we respected the game and went about the game in the right way.”

There were plenty of positives for England, who broke the deadlock when James Ward-Prowse scored his first international goal. Jesse Lingard had a good game after returning to the squad, Raheem Sterling was on the scoresheet and Dominic Calvert-Lewin, filling in for Harry Kane up front, scored two clinical goals.

Southgate was happy with England’s imaginative attacking and, keen to stress the importance of a good attitude, he also picked out the way that Watkins was mobbed by his teammates after scoring. “The reaction to his goal told you a lot about this team and this squad,” he said. “They were so pleased for him. I think they make it easier for young players and new players to be themselves and bed in.”

Watkins, who was playing for Exeter City in League Two four years ago, scored with his first shot. “It’s what I dreamed of,” the Aston Villa striker said. “All day in the hotel I was thinking about it – ‘I hope I get on and get an opportunity’ – but I didn’t know if it would happen. I’m speechless. I’m over the moon.”