Activate discovery+Sep 23
England will face Senegal in the last 16 after two strikes from an excellent Marcus Rashford, either side of a goal from Phil Foden, ensured that the Three Lions roared into the World Cup 2022 knockout stage as Group B winners, dumping Wales out in the process.
Despite England heading into the fixture top of the group, they still weren't guaranteed qualification, and while Gareth Southgate's men were on course to face the Lions of Teranga with the game locked at 0-0 at the break, it was a bit of a drab affair.
However, a searing free-kick from Rashford - the first scored at the tournament - followed swiftly by Foden's close-range finish put the game to bed, with Rashford's confident dribble and shot wrapping things up and putting him joint-top of the Golden Boot standings in Qatar with three.
After a lacklustre goalless draw against the USA, Southgate made four changes for the Battle of Britain at the Al-Rayyan Stadium, with Kieran Trippier, Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling dropping to the bench and Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Foden and Rashford coming in.
The Dragons came into this fixture simply needing a win over their neighbours – and even that might not be enough - after suffering a crushing 2-0 loss to Iran after conceding in the 98th and 101st minutes, with Wayne Hennessey receiving a red card just before those setbacks after committing a horribly mistimed challenge when charging out from his goal to clear.
That dismissal meant that Hennessey was suspended for this fixture, and his replacement, Leicester’s Danny Ward, reacted smartly on 10 minutes, coming out to smother Marcus Rashford’s effort after an inch-perfect through-ball from Harry Kane, who some wondered might be rested after an off-colour display against the States.
Despite having the vast majority of possession, the Rashford chance was the only time England seriously troubled Wales in the first half, with Harry Maguire deciding to waltz forward at around the half-hour mark only to balloon a shot out for a throw-in.
After receiving a Rashford shot full in the head, Neco Williams attempted to carry on before eventually being withdrawn as a concussion substitute for Connor Roberts.
Jude Bellingham then slalomed into the box before laying off to Foden, who swivelled and blasted over, shortly before Foden showcased his mesmerising dribbling ability to drive England up the pitch, only for the move to break down as Rashford’s square pass was cut out by Roberts.
Christian Pulisic’s opener for the USA against Iran in Doha was no doubt immediately picked up by the Wales fans in the stands, who knew anything other than a four-goal victory would see them eliminated.
The only chance for Rob Page’s men came on the stroke of half-time when Joe Allen’s strike sailed past the top right-hand corner of Jordan Pickford’s goal and Brennan Johnson was introduced at the second period in place of captain Gareth Bale.
Possession: 35% - 65%
Shots: 7 - 18
Shots on target: 1 - 7
Corners: 1 - 6
However, the breakthrough came on 50 minutes for the favourites. Foden went to ground and Rashford whipped a 20-yard free-kick superbly into the far corner, with Ward taking a fatal step to his right as the Manchester United forward stepped up to take the set-piece.
Less than two minutes later, it was 2-0. Rashford also played a massive part in this goal, robbing Ben Davies of possession deep in Wales territory. The ball broke to Harry Kane, who whipped an exquisite cross that caught Chris Mepham on his heels for Foden to stride in and tuck home.
To their credit, Wales did not lose heart, with Dan James curling an effort wide and Maguire almost diverting Kieffer Moore’s drive beyond Pickford.
Just before the hour, Southgate took the opportunity to introduce players who’ve been on the fringes up to now as Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kalvin Phillips and Callum Wilson replaced Walker, Declan Rice and Kane.
A nasty-looking challenge from Aaron Ramsey on Henderson then led to a yellow card for the not-so-Nice midfielder - although the Liverpool skipper was able to continue – before Rashford’s second duly followed, and it was a wonderful team goal. John Stones lofted a pass into Alexander-Arnold’s path, with the right-back cushioning the ball to Phillips. The Manchester City man then clipped gloriously into the right-hand channel for Rashford to latch onto and surge inside, giving Roberts twisted blood before firing in off Ward for England's 100th goal in World Cup history.
Foden was just unable to steer home a fourth when Bellingham shovelled the ball towards goal following a smart save by Ward from the Borussia Dortmund star, and John Stones also agonisingly missed in stoppage time, but it didn't matter as England made the rest of the tournament sit up and take notice (again), while Wales will hope that the World Cup wait is only four years, rather than 64.