Sheffield United: Dean Henderson helps England book their place at next year's European under-21 Championships'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹'‹ with a 7-0 thrashing of Andorra
Opportunities to impress Gareth Southgate and the top brass were always going to be few and far between against opponents still searching for their first win since the summer of 2015.
But Sheffield United's Dean Henderson, who makes no secret of his desire to become a senior international,Â could at least console himself with the knowledge he is heading for next year's European ChampionshipÂ finals.
Given Andorra's limitations, Henderson's contribution to the victory which sealed England under-21'sÂ qualification could only be described as minimal at best. Indeed, such is the scale of the goalkeeper'sÂ ambitions, there was probably a part of him which wished he was standing in the other net instead.
So asÂ Francisco Pires did his best to keep things respectable, producing a series of eye-catching saves toÂ prevent England winning by an even wider margin, Henderson busied himself showcasing other qualities;Â namely bellowing instructions to largely redundant defenders and, when Andorra did muster a shot onÂ target, his powers of concentration.
"The biggest thing, the only thing. was getting the result and getting through," Henderson said. "You can only beat what is put in front of you and we knew they would come out, sit deep, and look to make it tough.
"Now we can look forward to going (to the finals) and so that's job done." Tuesday's visit to Scotland is likely to be a much busier affair for Henderson and, after outlining hisÂ ambitions to eventually displace Jordan Pickford, you suspect that is exactly what the 21-year-old wants.Â
But tonight's match at the Proact Stadium, Chesterfield, was always about booking a place on the planeÂ to Italy and San Marino. As expected, head coach Aidy Boothroyd was in a position to begin makingÂ reservations long before half-time as Ademola Lookman and Ezri Konsa put England in control beforeÂ former United striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored the first of his two efforts.
"These are actually the toughest games," Henderson said. "The ones where you don't have much to do and need to stay switched on. "I'm sure there will be plenty of chances to show more in the Euros, in different kinds of tests."
England entered the fixture requiring only a point to progress to the finals from their remaining two outings.Â It was effectively secured long before the interval although Pires did deny Dael Fry, Calvert-Lewin andÂ Lewis Cook with excellent blocks.
The breakthrough came after only nine minutes when Lookman, Calvert-Lewin's team mate at Everton,Â finished from close-range before Konsa also pounced. Calvert-Lewin had added two more, the latterÂ coming via a second-half penalty, when Henderson, on loan from Manchester United, thwarted MartinezÂ with his legs.
Only the post prevented Reiss Nelson from adding a fifth, after Pires had parried clear from RyanÂ Sessegnon. But Dominic Solanke made no mistake, dancing through Andorra's rearguard when the hostsÂ enthusiasm, which had hitherto been admirable, finally began to wane. Nelson's back heel, to make it six,Â was equally impressive. But England's seventh was fortunate as the ball flew past Pires off a defender'sÂ boot. Ben Woodburn, who is on loan at United from Liverpool, was an unused substitute for Wales as they wereÂ beaten 4-1 by Spain in Cardiff.Â
England under-21: Henderson, Kenny (Da Silva 72), Cook, Fry, Konsa, Lookman (Nelson 72), Davies,Â Calvert-Lewin (Solanke 72), Foden, Sessegnon, Walker-Peters. Not used: Gunn, Onomah, Clarke-Salter,Â Abraham.
Andorra under-21: Pires, De Pablos, Pomares, Bove, Garcia, Reyes (Sandro 90), Fernandez (Del Castillo 66),Â Alaez, Martinez, Alvedra (Pijuan 76), Viladot. Not used: Silverio, Nazzaeo, Cabanez, Pijuan, Tizon.
Referee: Urs Schnyder (Switzerland)