Lithuania 0 – 3 England (half-time 0-2)

England completed their Euro 2016 qualification campaign with yet another comfortable victory away to Lithuania. With a perfect ten wins under their belts they could be forgiven for approaching the finals in an upbeat mood. The visitors became just the sixth side to reach the Euro finals by winning all of their qualifying games. Yet Roy Hodgson knows full well that qualification is only the start of his challenge.

All change for England

Last night’s game was an audition for some of the newer caps and younger players to stake their claim, as several first teamers were left at home including Joe Hart and record breaker Wayne Rooney.

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Jack Butland deputised for Hart in goal, while there were further opportunities for Jonjo Shelvey, Jamie Vardy and Kyle Walker in the starting line-up. Liverpool’s Danny Ings was also afforded a thirty-minute cameo from the bench.

Solid lead by half-time

Even so, Hodgson’s men dominated for huge chunks of the contest and hardly broke sweat in establishing a two goal advantage by the break. Ross Barkley was in the thick of the action again, following up on his impressive display in the 2-0 success over Estonia. This time he opened the scoring in Vilnius, his long range strike taking a deflection on its way into the left hand corner of the net.

It looked as though Harry Kane had added the second on 35 minutes, but on closer inspection his powerful left foot shot had struck the post and rebounded in off the unfortunate Lithuanian goalkeeper, Giedrius Arlauskis.

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Chamberlain settled the result

The second period could have yielded more than the one additional goal that the visitors managed. However, it was left to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to complete the scoring, slamming his shot past Arlauskis into the roof of the net shortly after the hour mark.

Crowd trouble concern

Reports of crowd trouble with missiles being thrown before the match soured the result slightly. The skirmishes were seemingly caused by England fans having tickets for an area set aside for home supporters. Riot police stepped in to prevent further disruption, forming a human barrier to separate the rival supporters.

Tough friendlies lined up next

The path to France will pit England against far stronger teams, as they seek to not only gauge where they sit in the European footballing hierarchy but to also allow Hodgson to settle on his ideal first eleven for the championships themselves.

Next month they will face two stern tests in the form of friendlies in Spain on 13th November, followed by a Wembley date with Euro 2016 hosts France four days later.

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The England manager will no doubt be seeking to play a strong side in both matches, while seeking to incorporate some of his fresh faces into the side to see how they cope against some of the better players on the continent.

Barkley pressing for starting spot

Barkley for one seems to have done himself no harm in recent weeks. His ability to go past defenders is reminiscent of Gazza at times. Yet fitness permitting he may have to wait his turn when the likes of Jordan Henderson and Fabian Delph are available again in the midfield.

Options up front

The permutations up front and just off the main striker are no less intriguing. Will Kane and Rooney be paired together and if so, how do Raheem Sterling, Theo Walcott and Adam Lallana fit into the manager’s plans? The Spanish and French friendlies should give us a firmer clue as to Hodgson’s thinking. #Football #Youngsters #Euro2016