LONDON – Harry Kane scored a first-half hat trick as England secured qualification for the 2020 European Championship with a 7-0 victory over Montenegro on Thursday in the team’s 1,000th game.
On a landmark night that saw England field its youngest starting lineup in 60 years, the 22-year-old Tammy Abraham came off the bench to open his account for England by completing the rout.
England will be back at Wembley during the championship next year. Three group-stage games will be played at the national stadium, which is one of 12 venues being used by UEFA in 12 cities across Europe.
The semifinals and final are also at Wembley in July 2020.
The first task for Gareth Southgate’s side was securing a place in the draw later this month after clinching top spot in qualifying from Group A.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent England in front in the 11th minute after being set up by the first of Ben Chilwell’s three assists. The left back’s next two — a free kick and corner — were completed by Kane’s headers.
After Marcus Rashford netted on the half-hour, Kane completed his second consecutive Wembley hat trick with a close-range finish in the 37th minute to take the captain’s England haul to 31 goals.
“Not only does he lead the line for us, provide the goal threat, but also provide opportunities for others and I've said before, what an unselfish player he is,” England manager Gareth Southgate said. “But, of course, when those opportunities are there he's absolutely ruthless.”
After a flood of goals in the first half, the Montenegro net was only breached after the break by Aleksandar Sofranac’s own-goal and Abraham in the 84th after the Chelsea forward came off the bench.
“We have struggled in the past against lower-ranked teams who defend in numbers,” Southgate said. “But we've got players who can open those teams up and a type of play that can do that.”
The 26-year-old Kane overtook retired players Frank Lampard, Alan Shearer, Nat Lofthouse, and Tom Finney in England goal chart as he chases down Wayne Rooney’s record of 53.
Rooney was in the stands as was 1966 World Cup winner Geoff Hurst for the milestone occasion.
Raheem Sterling was also forced to watch from the stands after being dropped for an altercation at England’s St George's Park base on Monday with Joe Gomez. It came a day after they clashed on the field during a high-profile Premier League game between Manchester City and Liverpool
But Gomez, the Liverpool defender, was jeered by pockets of supporters when he was brought on as a second-half substitute.
Sterling, the former Liverpool forward now playing for Manchester City, backed Gomez.
“It was hard for me to see my teammate get booed for something that was my fault,” Sterling wrote on Twitter.
“Especially after a difficult week for him to be booed when he came on tonight was wrong. I've taken full responsibility and accepted the consequence. I felt as though I had to say this, get home safe everyone.”
England manager Gareth Southgate was disappointed by the reaction of the fans.
“Joe had done absolutely nothing wrong,” Southgate said. “No England player should ever be booed when they're wearing the shirt, ever. I don't get it.
"So, all of the players are particularly disappointed with that, and the reason that I wanted to get Joe on the pitch tonight was that he's been with us in September and October and we've not got him into the games.”
Sterling is set to return to the team for Sunday’s final Euro 2020 qualifier away against Kosovo.