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England vs Albania

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Hi everyone

Hope you are all well!

We’re back with another international break as England continue their journey to the World Cup 2022! On Friday 12th of November England hosted Albania at Wembley stadium.

The game was a complete sell out and was a 7.45 kick off so we left straight from college to get there in time, there wasn’t as much traffic as expected so we arrived about 2 hours before kick-off giving us plenty of time to get settled before kick-off. Our seat was located directly behind the goal, I hadn’t sat in this area of Wembley before, but the view was amazing so would definitely recommend! The drums were right behind us so throughout the whole match there was constant noise to energise the fans and players. My friend Abbie was also at the game and coincidentally our seats were near, so we met up before the game started.

Gareth named a pretty similar squad of 25 from the last camp with a few players dropping out late due to injury, a player that benefitted from this was Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe, he has been incredible this season so definitely deserved the late call up from the under 21 team. It was pretty surprising that he was the only late call up with the quantity of players that dropped out, would have been a good chance to introduce players like Gallagher to the system but Gareth obviously has other ideas. Prior to the game Gareth also signed a two-year contract extension, taking him through to the EUROS in 2024. We were going into the game needing 4 points from our remaining 2 games.

The national anthems were sung, and the teams were ready. Gareth named the 2 in form Chelsea wing backs, Chilwell, and James, in the starting line-up hoping they could carry their form into the England team. Before the game there was a 2-minute silence, along with wreaths being laid by members of the army to mark Remembrance Day, which was the day before the match. There was also a shirt laid on the pitch to commemorate Ron Flowers, who passed away earlier in the day. Both teams took the knee, and the game was off! Albania started the game and managed to keep England in their defensive half for the opening stages. When England got the ball back after a loose pass from the away team, Sterling looked to be fouled on the edge of the box, but the referee decided nothing needed to happen and the game continued. The French ref made a few bad decisions over the 90 minutes, there were times when players were clearly fouled but the ref just played on, thankfully it didn’t affect the outcome of the game in any way. In less than 7 minutes the Albanian medical team was called to action twice, it was a very stop start opening of a match, but the players did have to eventually be subbed off. In the 8th minute a nasty foul was committed on Kane giving us a free kick. The set piece was whipped in inch perfectly by Reece James, the ball found the head of Maguire who was free at the back post and the ball went flying into the far side of the net straight past the keeper. An early 1-0 lead for England, could be a long night for Albania. It wasn’t long till we were on another attack, once again a loose ball from Albania, this time it was picked up by Foden who could run directly towards goal before having a shot from just inside the box, it did go into the crowd but showing some threatening signs. A heart in throat moment for England fans as the ball finds its way back to Walker, his ball back to Pickford wasn’t up to standards and was too weak for the keeper to collect, the Albanian striker was able to pick the ball up but wasn’t able to capitalise the opportunity and his attempt was thankfully straight at Pickford. Reece James used his strength to get down the pitch before playing it back to Henderson, a quick one two with Foden and he was in the box, a great ball onto the head of Kane and it was 2-0 in 18 minutes! It didn’t take long for the pair to be involved again, this time a one-two between each other around the players with Henderson receiving the final ball, some lovely footwork to cut the defender out whilst play the ball onto his preferred side, the final thing to do with put the ball in the back of the net and he didn’t disappoint, 3-0 to England! Shortly after a save was forced out of the Albanian keeper to save a strike from Kane, it seriously seemed so easy for the boys in blue. Yet another mistake from Albania giving the ball away, and Sterling was launching another attack, a direct run towards the box before playing the ball through to Kane who had made a run in behind, he seemed to have gone too wide and made the angle to tight, but it’s Harry Kane so of course the ball found the back of the net once again and it was 4-0!! James involved again in setting England on the attack for what seemed like the 100th time in this half, his direct run towards the box before playing it into Sterling in the middle just outside the box, the ball found its way out to Kane who was out wide, his shot went wide it only needed a touch from Foden who was advancing at the back post, but he was a second too slow. Harry Kane should’ve been on about 4 goals by now, the ball was crossed in by James, but Kane’s header was sent just wide of the post. There was a near one goal as Sterling’s crossed was sent just wide of the post by an Albanian defender, from where we were sitting it looked super close! England didn’t have to wait long till they got another goal, in the 45+2nd minute we won a corner, it was whipped in by Foden and found an awaiting Kane at the back post, a superb overhead kick and the ball found the back of the net for the 5th time of the evening! What a goal from the England captain, had the whole stadium in shock, it took a small deflection, but you cannot take anything anyway from the effort. That was the final action of the half.

What a half from the boys, and a lovely quick hat trick for the Captain, I’m going to admit I along with pundits have been critical of him recently, but I guess he’s proved us wrong. Reece James was absolutely incredible in the first half, his balls in were superb throughout. Possibly the best football I have seen them play live, the only downside was that all the goals were at the opposite end of the pitch to where we were sitting. We were hoping for more of the same in the second half and to have some action in front of us!

The second half began, and Albania had an early attempt for a goal, but the ball went straight into Pickford’s hands. Henderson and Kane linked up once again, but this time Harry’s attempt went straight into the crowd. James was in the action again in the second half as he was called to defend, showing how he can provide the defensive and attacking aspects of a wingback effectively! The half was extremely anticlimactic compared to the first half, resulting in the Mexican wave being started, every game I’ve been too this has happened to seem like a ritual now. Some fans also turned to making paper aeroplanes and balls again to keep them entertained. In the 63rd minute Gareth turned to his bench to try and liven the game up, Bellingham, Abraham and Grealish came on in replace of Phillips, Kane and Foden. There was a big collision between James and Stones leaving them on the ground for a lengthy period of time, it looked bad from where we were sitting but it was pretty unclear, the stretchers were bought out but thankfully they were both okay to continue after the correct precautions were taken. It wasn’t long till James was involved in another attack, Bellingham was able to flick the ball back into the centre of the box into the path of James, but his shot wasn’t on target and went wide. The second load of substitutions came in the 76th minute with Smith-Rowe and Alexander-Arnold coming on in replace of Sterling and James; this was a huge moment for Emile as he made he’s senior debut in front of a Wembley crowd, he received an extra loud cheer! As soon as he came on the pitch he made a good impact, his drives towards goal gave us something to cheer about after a very disappointing half, but sadly no one could find the back of the net. In the very late stages of the game Alexander-Arnold’s shot was saved out into the path of Bellingham, he decided to play it back to Trent, but he really should have gone for it himself, they seemed to just want to pass all the time even when there were chances to shoot but then it ended with another missed opportunity. And that was it, the game ended 5-0 to England and we are one point away from guaranteed qualification.

Although the second half was very disappointing the game was practically over at half time, so there was no surprise they took their foot off the gas a little. Obviously, Harry Kane for MOTM after his hat trick, but there we’re some great performances throughout the team. As I am writing this Conor Gallagher has just this morning (Sunday 14th) received a senior team call up as Sterling, Grealish and Henderson drop out due to injury; what a moment for the Palace loanee it is so deserved and great that he’s finally getting the recognition, I really hope he gets some minutes against San Marino to get his debut and help the team guarantee qualification!

The next game I’m attending will be Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa on Saturday 27th of November, so look out for that post!

Thank you for reading

Ellie Xx

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