Andros Townsend put in a stellar debut as England beat Montenegro 4-1 at Wembley Stadium to move a step closer to the World Cup finals in Brazil.
Townsend scored a brilliant solo strike to put England 3-1 up, having been involved in Wayne Rooney’s opener early in the second half.
But Townsend’s star turn put their challenge to bed, with Daniel Sturridge adding a late fourth from the spot to seal the win.
Roy Hodgson’s side go top of Group H, with Montenegro now out of it following Ukraine’s 1-0 win over Poland earlier.
England – who are guaranteed a play-off spot – host the Poles next week needing to match Ukraine’s result at San Marino, which is a near-guaranteed three points for Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side.
Pre-match – Hodgson goes for broke: Everyone thought England coach would stick to his conservative guns and use James Milner instead of starting with Rooney, Welbeck and Sturridge. Not only did he plump for all three but Townsend was handed a surprise start as Jack Wilshere dropped to the bench.
33’ – SAVE: Vukasin Poleksic with a great stop from a Steven Gerrard piledriver.
40’ – POST: Rooney rattles the woodwork from six yards, although the angle was closed well by Poleksic. Great play from Rooney and Townsend in the build-up.
44’ – CHANCE: Kecovejic with a superb block as Sturridge angled a lovely backheel to goal. Rooney with the cross.
48’ – GOAL (England 1-0 Montenegro): Rooney finishes from close range after Poleksic’s excellent stop from Welbeck. Townsend started it with a super run down the right.
54’ – SUSPENSION: Kyle Walker will miss the match in Poland after a booking for a foul on Stevan Jovetic.
55’ – SAVE: Joe Hart makes a fine stop from Damjanovic’s header before showing great agility on the follow-up, although the flag had gone up by then.
62’ – GOAL (England 2-0 Montenegro): Comical own-goal from Boskovic as he puts Danny Welbeck’s cross past his own keeper.
68-71’ – Four huge chances for England as Gerrard mis-kicks wide of a near open goal, Poleksic saves from Welbeck while both Rooney and Welbeck fail to convert low crosses.
72’ – GOAL (England 2-1 Montenegro): Damjanovic sticks out a boot to meet Fatos Beciraj’s shot, sending it past Joe Hart. Fortuitous.
78’ – GOAL (England 3-1 Montenegro): Townsend runs from just inside the Montenegro half, beating several men before hammering a low shot past Poleksic. A brilliant goal to mark a brilliant debut.
90+2 – PENALTY: Ivan Kecojevic hacks down Sturridge in the box to give England a chance to rub it in.
90+3 – GOAL (England 4-1 Montenegro): Sturridge insists on taking it himself and makes no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way and rolling the ball home.
England had 61% possession, 27 efforts on goal to Montenegro's 10, and 12 on target to their opponents' two.
England finally beat Montenegro at the fourth time of asking, having drawn their three previous encounters.
Wayne Rooney scored his 37th goal for England, giving him a goal a game in qualifying. He is 12 short of Bobby Charlton’s all-time record.
TALKING POINT – Hodgson finally plays to England’s strengths. England finally decided to unleash their attacking weapons – fast, direct wide men and forwards given the freedom to try new things. Sturridge and Welbeck had a touch of the Yorke and Cole about them with their backheel interchanges, while Townsend is the real deal.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Andros Townsend (England): Questions were asked about the Spurs winger’s selection; he answered them with a masterclass in wingplay. Terrifyingly quick, and skilful to boot.
England: Hart 7, Walker 6, Baines 6, Jagielka 6, Cahill 6, Gerrard 6, Lampard 6, Townsend 8, Rooney 7, Welbeck 7, Sturridge 7; Subs: Carrick 7, Milner NA, Wilshere NA
Montenegro: Poleksic 7, Volkov 6, Jovanovic 6, Savic 7, Pavicevic 6, Kecojevic 6, Damjanovic 7, Zverotic 6, Drincic 6, Boskovic 6, Jovetic 6; Subs: Kasalica NA, Vukcevic 6, Beciraj 6
THE MATCH IN A TWEET