There was such outstanding beauty to England’s performance but such a viciously ugly aftermath to this sweeping victory in which, in the words of the Montenegro coach, they confirmed themselves as one of the best teams in the world.
Pity Ljubisa Tumbakovic did not have the bravery to condemn the Montenegrin fans who racially abused Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi , an 18-year-old so brilliant on his full England debut who had to deal with this. And did so as assuredly as he played.
Thankfully, unequivocally and immediately, Gareth Southgate condemned it .
He stood up like his players stood up; like Raheem Sterling, who was excellent again, stood up as he pulled at his ears in front of the furious abusers after scoring England’s fifth goal. It was clear what he meant by that as he later confirmed in an Instagram post: “Best way to silence the haters (yeah I mean racists)”.
A lighter was thrown near Sterling, which was picked up by Hudson-Odoi and passed to the England bench, and an official complaint will be made to Uefa, who have to act and act hard. The evidence is there – Uefa’s own observer heard it, as Southgate later confirmed – and is overwhelming.
Montenegro had promised a “hellish atmosphere” but this a version of hell that is not about hostility or trying to passionately support your team. If they want hell then let them be condemned.
England have had a hard time here in the past with objects thrown, chanting, fighting, and here it was again with definite and clear racist abuse. Montenegro can deny it as much as they want.
Southgate’s side would not be denied. It is a difficult shift from opening a report on such horrific behaviour to discuss the match, but Southgate had his players deserve the praise for their exciting, confident football. They gave the perfect response on and off the pitch.
After two ties in their qualification group for Euro 2020, they have scored 10 goals – five goals in each game, back-to-back for the first time since 1984 – and their dominant form is such, and with such a young and uninhibited team, that the rest of the world is taking note.
What is so pleasing is the rate of progress is now accelerating. England have moved on and moved up from the World Cup. Southgate is becoming increasingly bold, increasingly brave, but also increasingly assured.
England have not won away to Montenegro in the past. Twice before they have lost leads to suffer chaotic draws. This time they went behind only to take total control and run out ruthless winners and completely demoralise their opponents.
Even when Montenegro tried to rough England up near the end, there was a physical response with no nonsense taken by Rose and Jordan Henderson, who came on as a second-half substitute to earn his 50th cap, and who even stepped them up a gear.
They would not be intimidated. They would not be cowed. They certainly would not be beaten.
For England, and only England, there were positives everywhere: a quite marvellous performance from Hudson-Odoi, an astonishingly assured one from Declan Rice and the resurgence of Ross Barkley, who had appeared in the wilderness not so long ago but emphatically belongs now.
There was another test for England – they fell behind and did so to Montenegro’s first attack and through a couple of mistakes. That they scored twice themselves after that before half-time – and went from one down to 2-1 up in 21 minutes – spoke volumes.
But first the Montenegro goal, with Hudson-Odoi too easily beaten in the air – it was his only mistake – and with Michael Keane failing to clear. It broke to Marko Vesovic, who comfortably beat Keane in the penalty area, went away from Harry Maguire and arced a right-foot shot around Jordan Pickford.
For Keane and Hudson-Odoi, there would be the satisfaction of a significant involvement in England’s response as there was also from Barkley, who contributed an assist and a goal – his first for his country for four years.
It was from his deep free-kick that Keane rose beyond the far post, beating Montenegro captain Stefan Savic, to guide a header back across goal and into the net for his first England goal in what was his seventh cap.
Then Harry Kane turned the ball out wide to Hudson-Odoi, who had swapped wings with Sterling, and he cut in from the left and drifted away from two defenders before shooting right-footed, with Barkley getting a vital touch to guide it past goalkeeper Danijel Petkovic.
Having seized the initiative, England maintained it; did not let it go; did not stop trying to press their advantage.
Of course this has happened to Raheem Sterling in London as well. It’s just disgusting that he and so many others have to have this in their lives. https://t.co/ICp5mRtpeT— Paul Hayward (@_PaulHayward) March 25, 2019
As he had promised, Southgate made changes, four in all despite a depleted squad, and it showed his confidence and belief.
He did it without hesitation, including swapping Jadon Sancho for Hudson-Odoi – and it was the latter player who threatened twice, with a cross and a run and shot, before Sterling’s close control and tenacity set up Barkley, who ran onto the ball and slammed it home for his second goal.
Montenegro were beaten but England kept going – as all good teams do. And they are now very good.
If anything, Sterling’s influence grew and he appeared set to make a point as he first set up Kane, after astutely being put through by Barkley, who side-footed his 17th goal in his last 20 England games.
Finally, deservedly, Sterling had his goal, his sixth in four games, as he ran on to Henderson’s superb pass and nutmegged Petkovic. What a perfect response on such an imperfect occasion.
“It’s a ready sad evening,” Southgate said. It was – and it was not. What happens now really matters and, as for England, they are doing all the right things.
"It will go to Uefa, they will fine them a pittance amount and it will not stop them. We will come back here and it will be the same."
Gareth Southgate asked about racist abuse
I heard it. There is no doubt in my mind that it happened (racial abuse) and we will make sure it is formally reported.
I had a chat with Danny. I heard it. Whatever has happened we will report.
I don't want to speculate (about what Raheem was doing) but we have got to support our players and we will report it (racist abuse).
Here are the England player ratings
Here comes Jason's match report
Thanks for following with me. Well done England. Cheers.
FT: Montenegro 1 England 5
Rose has clattered Boljevic from behind, some feeling behind that one, and a yellow for the England man. Game just getting a bit spiteful and frankly who can blame the England guys?
No doubt of racist chanting from Montenegro fans after Danny Rose picks up a late yellow card.— Matt Law (@Matt_Law_DT) March 25, 2019
Anyway, the ref brings it to a close before anything really noteworthy happens, and that is a satisfactory evening all in all.
Was Raheem pulling at his ears, or cupping his hands to them, when he engaged with the crowd who had been abusing England's black players?
89 mins: Montenegro 1 England 5
Verbals plus between Henderson and Boljevic and Vukcevic. The last named grabbed Henderson's shirt, Henderson got up in his grille, and Boljevic then took up the cudgels.
87 mins: Montenegro 1 England 5
Henderson has got the armband. England have scored five in two consecutive games for the first time since 1984, when Finland and Turkey were given a pair o' pastings.
85 mins: Montenegro 1 England 5
James Ward-Prowse and Callum Wilson are on; Sir Harold and Ross Barkley, who must be there or thereabouts for the player of the match honours, are off.
82 mins: Montenegro 1 England 5
Someone has apparently chucked a lighter, or something like it, at Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Something resembling a lighter has just been thrown at Hudson-Odoi. He picked it up, passed it to the England bench and it was given to the UEFA delegate.— Jeremy Cross (@CrossyDailyStar) March 25, 2019
GOAL! Montenegro 1 England 5 (Sterling 81)
Sterling makes it five and goes over to give a bit to the Montenegro fans. Good for you Raheem. It's Henderson who slips the ball and it is Sterling who runs onto it and nutmegs the goalkeeper. Lovely finish from a class act.
75 mins: Montenegro 1 England 4
Monty have a corner, Keane heads that behind. Not quite sure he merits a Keano yet, but he has had a decent game since that mx-up for the goal.
73 mins: Montenegro 1 England 4
Marko Simic off, Vladimir Jovovic on. Stojkovic breaks, Rose trips him and might have been booked.
GOAL! Montenegro 1 England 4 (Kane 70)
Oh that's emphatic. Really dominating and clinical from England. Barkley is again involved and he has played it from deep to find that man Sterling down the right. He surges forward, the poor old Montys are nowhere to be seen. Perfectly timed pass, and a perfectly timed run from Harold Kane. A simple side-foot, and it is four. England absolutely bullying these now.
And tbh if that stuff about the fans and racial abuse is true: good. I hope England get ten (10).
66 mins: Montenegro 1 England 3
Mugosa wastes that freekick. Boljevic coming on for Vesovic.
65 mins: Montenegro 1 England 3
Debbie Alli is coming off. Jordan Henderson is on. England have a freekick to defend.
61 mins: Montenegro 1 England 3
Beciraj is off, Jankovic is on. Sterling is at it again, another great run down the flank. England have a team, even a squad, full of exciting, direct, quick and skillful players. It's all a bit giddy making.
England make me happy. They never used to. Now they do. I saw the world cup final in 1966 as well as the 1990 & 96 semi final sides and these are the best of all those. And there's loads of them too. It's such joy.— John Nicholson (@JohnnyTheNic) March 25, 2019
GOAL! Montenegro 1 England 3 (Barkley 59)
It's that man Ross Barkley again! He's scored again! England sort of needed that, and it came about because Raheem Sterling had carved the Montys open down the right once again. He crossed low, Barkley had time to pick his spot, and it's three.
The goal came after a decent little spell for the hosts, with Vesovic putting it about and looking dangerous. But Barkley has surely settled the matter.
52 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Danny Rose has lost his man there and then seems to think he has been fouled by Beciraj. His opponent gets away from him, into the area, lays it off to Ivanic and England are suddenly staring
a minor setback in the face when the Montenegro man gets a snap shot away. Wide.
The fact @Calteck10 can't get a regular full game for Chelsea just seems so very wrong. And mad. He's poetry in motion.— John Nicholson (@JohnnyTheNic) March 25, 2019
Ross Barkley has been booked for taking a freekick too quickly, which seems like the absolute height of pedantry so I assume it was persistent naughtiness.
49 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Callum gathers the ball with a superb first touch, beats a man and drives forward.... low shot! Ooh, blocked. This lad is having a memorable dayboo.
Kane had come deep to deliver the pass. His range of passing is really special.
49 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Callum H-O with some more great work, once again, and a deep cross for Raheem. He cannot make contact properly at the back post.
48 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Barkley and Vesovic get involved in the beginnings of handbags. Ivanic with some nice skills, and a shot over.
46 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Second half underway. Elsewhere, Ronaldo has gone off injured with a hamstring vs Serbia.
Half time: Montenegro 1 England 2
That's the half. Impressive from England having fallen behind. Monty look to carry a puncher's threat on the break though so I would say that there could well be more goals in this. I very much hope that the reports about Danny Rose being racially abused are wrong but I cannot say that I am hopeful.
44 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Mugosa looks a useful player up front, he's played some nice passes around the place. He sets up Beciraj for an effort.
Hearing reports that Danny Rose and some others have been racially abused by some people in the crowd.
Our commentator @Iandennisbbc is reporting that there's been some racist abuse towards Danny Rose and other @England players from the Podgorica City Stadium.— BBC 5 Live Sport (@5liveSport) March 25, 2019
⚽️��: https://t.co/7nMmKXYIQ0 #MONENG #ThreeLions #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/uUzIDfFhYQ
40 mins: Montenegro 1 England 2
Absolutely fair play to this young England side, this has been a superb response to going behind. They are - and do stop me if this is getting too technical - but they are much better at football than Montenegro. They did not panic after falling behind, they have given this lot a roasting, and I am very confident indeed that there are more goals to come.
GOAL! Montenegro 1 England 2 (Barkley 38)
It's that very young man again! Callum Hudson-Odoi is running riot down the left, he cuts inside and leaves two men trailing in his wake. He lets rip with a right-foot drive. Ross Barkley sticks out a leg and diverts it home, giving the keeper no chance..
It will be Ross's name on the score sheet, but Callum is the guy who made that happen.
2 - Ross Barkley has scored and assisted in an England game for the second time and first time since September 2015 v San Marino. Turnaround.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 25, 2019
37 mins: Montenegro 1 England 1
Hudson-Odoi down the flank, crosses, and finds Sterling, who lays it off to Keane. Shot blocked. Great work from Callum.
35 mins: Montenegro 1 England 1
Big moment for Michael Keane. And a big one for Pickford too! He's done very well to gather a fiercely struck effort from Mugosa.
GOAL! Montenegro 1 England 1 (Keane 30)
Boom! Header! It's not exactly a villain to a sort of kind of hero for Michael Keane. England have a freekick on the right, it's a perfect delivery. Keane rises like a Stockport-born salmon to head it home, and I am awarding two goals rather than one because the ball knocks over the wee water bottle in the corner of the goal as it nestles home.
24 mins: Montenegro 1 England 0
Vukcevic gallops down the left side and England for a split second are looking at another major problem. His control lets him down and the moment passes.
21 mins: Montenegro 1 England 0
Kane was about to nut a header home there but Savic headed clear in the n of t.
19 mins: Montenegro 1 England 0
England try to hit back. They have a promising set piece but Declan Rice has fouled someone.
GOAL! Montenegro 1 England 0 (Vesovic 17 mins)
Against the run of play and I have to say, against all logic, Montenegro are ahead with their first attack!
Ball hit forward, Keane with a half-hearted header clear, Vesovic gathers it. Keane with a half-hearted tackle, Vesovic drives forward, opens up his body and curls a lovely shot past Pickford. Blimey!
"Indeed I often wonder where Norman is now. Probably wintering with his mother in Guildford. A cat, rain, Vim under the sink, and both bars on. But old now, there is no true beauty without decay." - Uncle Monty, Withnail & I ��️ - (Richard Griffiths) #botd 1947 pic.twitter.com/BClRhEWch4— Martin Neylon (@MartinNeylon) July 31, 2018
Callum HO sort of lost his man in that move by the way.
12 mins: Montenegro 0 England 0
England have a couple of set pieces, repelled.
Here's Sterling! Callum H-O slips it to him, Sterling with a burst, dances past a couple of challenges and sticks it in the mixer. Hacked clear.
Feels like it's coming for England.
8 mins: Montenegro 0 England 0
Montenegro vs England: late-1990s-away-qualifier-live-and-exclusive-on-Channel-5-ed pic.twitter.com/MqrtLX1fnN— Adam Hurrey (@FootballCliches) March 25, 2019
Well England have absolutely silenced the home crowd here. Monty have hardly had a kick.
6 mins: Montenegro 0 England 0
England have a corner, Barkley delivers, Maguire puts his header over.
Jordan Pickford there
4 mins: Montenegro 0 England 0
There's lovely Raheem onto the ball, he's got the run on Stojkovic down the left but the full back sort of gets in front of Raheem and goes down under the lightest touch. The ref buys it, I am not sure that I did. An interesting "dive at the wrong end of the pitch" move that would leave you looking like a very foolish fellow if it went wrong.
1 mins: Montenegro 0 England 0
Well, it's not exactly a bearpit early doors. England passing it around calmly enough, few whistles, touches for Callum and for Rice.
The Montys look up for it.
Didn't see whether Declan Rice sung the Brit national anthem or not, camera did not seem to alight on him as far as I saw.
"When I first went to England training there was Tony Adams sat there with his Financial Times, and he said 'come on' to me and he took me around. It was really important [helped fit in] and so when I was a senior player myself I always took that on, tried to help young players."
"There is the atmosphere in the ground, maybe a decision will go against us... but we cannot control things like that."
Matt Law reports...
"Scotland flag in the Montenegro end..."
Ha. Excellent, if misguided, piece of wind-uppery.
Gareth on Raheem
"His maturity off the field has allowed him to speak about things that are important to him and he has felt the love from that." That has allowed Raheem to express himself on the pitch more and become a leader.
And here is Tom Morgan
with further updates.
Just 15,000 will cram themselves into the stadium, but outside a small group of Montenegrins were giving England an early taste of the intimidating atmosphere that had promised.
Burly home fans gathered, arm in arm, in matching white t-shirts, shouting their chants in unison at the visiting fans. Inside, the England fans crammed into a small corner behind the goal, with netting covering the whole terrace.
England fans trying to gain access to the home end of the Gradski stadium were warned they might be tested to see if they can speak Montenegrin as the authorities attempted to enforce segregation.
Concerns were raised that England fans had bought tickets in the home end for the game, with the away supporter's official allocation just 650.
The English players had been promised a tense atmosphere and were duly hissed and booed as they emerged from the tunnel to warm up.
Matt Law with the lowdown
on the stadium atmosphere.
"England team loudly booed on to pitch by the Montenegro fans inside the stadium and there seems to be a guy with a megaphone shouting stuff."
Ian Wright on playing in intimidating away venues
"I remember when we [England] played in Turkey, it was 2 in the afternoon and the stadium was packed. They were all throwing spark plugs at us. But it brings you together as a side."
Pougers on a bridge
His intro features references to England's "five star performance" against the Czechs and the "Sterling work from one player in particular." Can you do that sort of stuff appaz sans irony these days?
I hear Joe Cole is on ITV again. Done quite well so far as a pundit, Joe.
Go on young man.
18 - Callum Hudson-Odoi (18y 138d) is the second youngest male player to start a competitive match for England after Wayne Rooney vs Turkey in April 2003 (17y 160d). Moment. pic.twitter.com/DWmKCDRj8Q— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 25, 2019
Montenegro : Petkovic, Stojkovic, Savic, Simic, Tomasevic, Marusic, Ivanic, Vukcevic, Vesovic, Beciraj, Mugosa. Subs : Mijatovic, Ljuljanovic, Boljevic, Kopitovic, Bakic, Jankovic, Djordjevic, Jovetic, Kajevic, Kosovic, Scekic, Radunovic.
England : Pickford, Walker, Maguire, Keane, Rose, Barkley, Rice, Alli, Sterling, Kane, Hudson-Odoi. Subs : Heaton, Butland, Trippier, Henderson, Tarkowski, Chilwell, Ward-Prowse, Sancho, Wilson.
Referee : Aleksei Kulbakov (Belarus)
Gareth: always connecting
England fan has just shouted at Gareth Southgate walking off the pitch - and asked him for the stadium wifi code— Charlie Wyett (@CharlieWyett) March 25, 2019
Red sky at night
Something something hopefully not involving fight.
Nice preview piece here with the Montenegro gaffer.
"Things that happen in the past are just nice results for Montenegro, tomorrow we will play a match with totally different players, new coaches, with different capabilities and different ideas from both teams.” https://t.co/p1u2jKbafS— Telegraph Football (@TeleFootball) March 25, 2019
Four changes for England
Broadway Danny Rose and Ross Barkley also come into the starting XI. Chilwell, Dier, Henderson and Sancho miss out for one reason or another.
Please extinguish all flares before continuing with this live blog.
Crikey: Montenegro looks a bit lively, don't it? Hope England can go there and get a nice result, and that everyone behaves themselves and has a good time and gets back safely.
First things first here is the England team. And further exciting news for fans of this young Gareth Southgate selection: there is a first start for the Basmati Busquets, Declan Rice, and the very talented Callum Hudson-Odoi.
England side: Pickford, Walker, Keane, Maguire, Rose, Rice, Barkley, Dele, Hudson-Odoi, Sterling, Kane.