KIEV / VILNIUS: England made it a perfect 10 wins out of 10 in their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign as they completed the road to France with a 3-0 defeat of Lithuania on Monday.
Roy Hodgson’s side had long since booked their place in next year’s tournament but were keen to finish with an impressive 100% record before focusing on the December draw for the finals.
And even with an under-strength team, there was never any doubt England would do just that after Everton midfielder Ross Barkley opened the scoring midway through the first half at the LFF Stadium. Giedrius Arlauskis deflected the ball into his own net from a Harry Kane effort to make it 2-0 soon after, before Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain made sure of the three points just after the hour mark.
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England are just the sixth team to win all of their matches in a European Championship qualifying campaign. It is also the first time England have gone through qualification, in its current format, without dropping a point.
Spain were the last team to achieve a perfect qualification record in the Euros en route to winning the 2012 tournament.
But, despite being unbeaten in 15 matches, the low standard of their Group E opposition means Hodgson’s team are still something of an unknown quantity and have plenty to prove before they can dream of emulating Spain’s achievement.
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“This is an achievement. I am very proud of the players’ performances,” said Hodgson. “I thought we were excellent, in the first half especially. There was a lot of hard work put in. The quality of play was good and 10 wins out of 10 is very satisfying. We’ve got to take a lot of pride in that.”
Although it was a smooth night on the pitch, the English FA will be concerned by a brief outbreak of crowd trouble before kick-off as England supporters at one end of the stadium traded punches with their Lithuania rivals.
Read: Conte hoping to build Euro 2016 ‘war machine’
No automatic qualification for Ukraine
Spain ended Ukraine’s hopes of automatic qualification as Mario Gaspar’s solitary goal on his international debut handed the European Champions a 1-0 win in Kiev.
However, Slovakia’s 4-2 win over Luxembourg ensured they qualify for next year’s finals in second place. Ukraine finished third and will now face a two-legged playoff in November to try and make it through.
Cesc Fabregas missed a penalty on his 100th cap, but Spain were grateful to a fantastic goalkeeping display from David de Gea to seal an eighth consecutive win in Group C. “I always try to do my best and today I played well, but the most important thing was to win,” de Gea told Television Espanola. “I have to compete as best I can. Today I had some luck, but I need to continue playing like this.”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 14th, 2015.
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