England became only the sixth team ever to reach the UEFA European Championship finals with a 100 per cent record after defeating Lithuania 3-0 in Vilnius to round off the perfect 10 wins from 10 games.
Early strikes from Everton’s Ross Barkley and Tottenham’s Harry Kane, plus a second-half finish from Arsenal forward Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, took the Three Lions’ points tally in Group E to a maximum 30 points.
However; the defeat for the hosts was too much to handle for national team coach Igoris Pankratjevas as he immediately resigned after the match, Lithuania’s sixth loss of the qualifying campaign as they finished second bottom only to San Marino.
Barkley’s deflected long-range drive gave Roy Hodgson’s men the lead inside half an hour, before Kane netted his third goal in six international appearances for England with a powerful effort that cannoned off the back of Lithuania goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis on 35 minutes.
Oxlade-Chamberlain then sealed all three points for the tenth successive Euro 2016 qualifier with the visitors’ third goal of the evening after 62 minutes in front of the loyal travelling supporters, rounding off a flawless record for England ahead of next summer’s finals in France.
Having scored an impressive 31 goals during qualifying and conceding just three; England should not be looked upon lightly for the Euro finals which start on Friday 10 June, 2016, after the Three Lions joined the likes of France (Euro 1992 and 2004), Czech Republic (Euro 2000), plus Spain and Germany (Both Euro 2012) in wrapping up 100 per cent qualification records.
“This is an achievement. I am very proud of the players’ performances,” manager Roy Hodgson said.
“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.
“It would have been a surprise if we had not qualified. But the upcoming friendlies are better, stronger sides. We’ll see how we deal with that.”
Elsewhere on Monday night; former England coach Fabio Capello guided Russia towards automatic qualification for next year’s Euro 2016 finals after his side comfortably defeated Montenegro 2-0 in Moscow to finish second in Group G.
However that result meant Sweden, who similarly fought past Moldova 2-0 last night, will have to settle for a play-off spot after missing out on a top-two finish in the final round of fixtures.
Meanwhile Group G winners Austria finished the qualification stage unbeaten having won nine of their ten games, with a 3-0 win over Liechtenstein being their final test, with Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic grabbing his country’s opening goal of the evening.
In Group C; Slovakia joined leaders Spain in sealing automatic qualification for the finals after Marek Hamsik scored twice in his nation’s thrilling 4-2 victory in Luxembourg.
Vicente del Bosque’s Euro 2008 and 2012 winners finished with 27 points from a possible 30 after their ninth win, with Mario Gaspar heading the only goal of the game in Spain’s 1-0 victory in the Ukraine.
The group’s other game saw Belarus and Macedonia play out a goalless draw.
And finally; back in England’s territory; already qualified Switzerland justified their runners-up spot with a last-gasp 1-0 win in Estonia thanks to Ragnar Klavan’s injury-time own goal, meanwhile play-off contenders Slovenia saw off San Marino 2-0 in Serravalle.