LONDON: Some will jest that not scoring against San Marino is harder than actually scoring for a pedigree striker but Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins did not care after his debut goal in England’s 5-0 World Cup qualifier victory on Thursday.
The Aston Villa player was given his chance as a 63rd-minute substitute and marked the occasion with a clinical finish 20 minutes later to complete the scoring.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s what I dreamed of,” Watkins said of his meteoric rise from fourth-tier Exeter City to England international in little over three years.
“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, to be honest. I feel honoured that I have had the chance to put on the shirt and play with these players.”
With England skipper Harry Kane left watching on as an unused substitute, the 25-year-old Watkins fully justified his first England call-up, a reward for an impressive season for Villa since joining from second-tier Brentford.
Watkins has scored 10 Premier League goals this season and is another example of the plethora of exciting attacking options available to manager Gareth Southgate.
Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin grabbed a brace and now has four goals in his first four England starts, while Jesse Lingard, while not scoring on his return to the international fold, was a lively presence.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Borussia Dortmund’s 17-year-old Jude Bellingham both got some game time in the second half against FIFA’s lowest-ranked side.
Chelsea trio Mason Mount, Ben Chilwell and Reece James also impressed in the first half, as did Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips, albeit without really being tested.
The only slight frustration for Southgate on his 50th match in charge of England was his largely second-string scored only five goals from 32 goal attempts, below the average of six they have put past the part-timers in six previous meetings.
Such was the training-ground feel to the miss-match, however, that proper analysis of England’s progress will only really be possible in the next two games away to Albania on Sunday and home to Poland on Wednesday.
“I thought there were lots of good individual performances — we said there was high individual motivation as well as the team, and it would be difficult to pick one out,” Southgate said of his team’s opening Group I game.