Rashford’s brace inspires England’s progress

Dave Bishop
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Wales v England – FIFA World Cup Group B – Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, Qatar – Report

Wales 0-3 England

Two-goal Marcus Rashford inspired England to a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Wales at the Ahmad Bin Stadium as the Three Lions finished top of Group B to progress into the final sixteen of the tournament, where they will face African Nations Cup winners Senegal on Sunday.

Going into the match, qualification to the quarter-final was still possible for Wales if they could defeat England and the Iran and USA game ended as a draw or if the margin of victory over the English was by a margin of over four goals on the night.  

At no point did either scenario look likely, however, as England outclassed Rob Page’s men from the start. The defeat ended a bitterly disappointing World Cup for Wales, their first since 1958, and they depart Qatar after having finished bottom of the group with only one point from their three games.        

Gareth Southgate made four changes from the team that drew with the USA with Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Phil Foden and Rashford coming in to replace Kieran Trippier, Mason Mount, Bakayo Saka and Raheem Sterling.

Wales reverted to a back four after playing with three at the back in their opening two games and Page made three changes to their starting eleven. Danny Ward replaced Wayne Hennessey in goal following his sending-off against Iran, while Joe Allen came in for Connor Roberts and Dan James replaced his Fulham team-mate, Harry Wilson.

England almost opened the scoring in the tenth minute as captain Harry Kane played Rashford in one on one only for him to be denied by Ward.

Kieffer Moore’s deflected long-range effort in stoppage time which forced Jordan Pickford into action was Wales first shot on target in a scoreless and uneventful first forty-five minutes.

Welsh hopes were dealt a huge blow when Gareth Bale was substituted at half-time with a hamstring injury. Their all-time leading goal-scorer and talisman, Bale had struggled badly having only touched the ball seven times in the game and it remains to be seen if this was his final appearance in a Wales jersey.

England opened the scoring in the fiftieth minute when Rashford fired a superb free-kick past Ward following Ethan Ampadu’s foul on Foden.

Just a minute later Foden, fully justifying the clamour for his recall to the side, knocked home Kane’s cross from the right to make it 2-0. 

With the match effectively won, Southgate had the luxury of being able to make several changes thereafter with previously unused squad members Trent Alexander-Arnold & Kalvin Phillips both being introduced for their first game time in the competition with just over half an hour left to play.

Phillips’ impact was immediate as his long ball from well inside his own half found Rashford on the right, who cut inside Connor Roberts before firing through Ward’s legs in the sixty-eighth minute for his second goal of the match to make it 3-0. Rashford’s strike was England’s one-hundredth goal at a World Cup Finals.   

With England still pushing forward, Rashford came close to a hat-trick soon after only for Ward to scramble the ball away at his far post.

John Stones had one final chance for England and will be disappointed not to have scored having skewed the ball over the bar from five yards out in the dying moments of the game.

A very unhappy night for Wales, who in addition to Bale, also lost Ben Davies and Joe Allen to injury. Despite the pride, they will take in having qualified for their first World Cup in sixty-four years, it will be a source of much frustration that despite going to Qatar with the expectation of at least getting past the group stage, they were unable to produce the form or level of performance required to compete at this level.

England on the other hand will take great heart from the win and as one of the tournament favourites, will now turn their attention to the challenges ahead with renewed vigour.

Wales: Ward, N. Williams (Roberts 36’) Mepham, Rodon, B. Davies (Morrell 59’) Allen (Colwill 81’) Ampadu, Bale (Capt.) (Johnson 45’) Ramsey, James (Wilson 77’) Moore Subs not used: Gunter, Lockyer, J. Williams, M. Harris, A. Davies, Thomas, Levitt, Cabango, Smith

England: Pickford, Walker (Alexander-Arnold 57’) Stones, Maguire, Shaw (Trippier 65’) Henderson, Rice (Phillips 58’) Bellingham, Foden, Kane (Capt.) (Wilson 58’) Rashford (Grealish 76’) Subs not used: Sterling, Pope, Dier, Coady, Saka, Mount, Ramsdale, Maddison, Gallagher

Referee: Slavko Vincic

Assistant Referees: Tomaz Klancnik and Andraz Kovacic 

Fourth Official: Yoshimi Yamashita 

Video Assistant Referee: Marco Fritz 

Assistant VAR Officials: Paolo Valeri, Pawel Sokolnicki, Bastian Dankert and Vasile Marinescu 

Attendance: 44,297