Harry Maguire achieved a level of England redemption as familiar face Jack Grealish helped put the Republic of Ireland to the sword in a comfortable friendly win at Wembley.
Just 29 days ago, Maguire was sent off here in a Nations League defeat to Denmark as a turbulent time on and off the pitch came to a head for the Manchester United defender.
But, with Harry Kane rested, England boss Gareth Southgate gave Maguire the captain’s armband and his unwavering faith in the 27-year-old was vindicated when he opened the scoring in a routine 3-0 win.
He put England ahead early on before Jadon Sancho’s first international goal in 14 months and a Dominic Calvert-Lewin penalty settled a one-sided affair.
Jude Bellingham also became the third-youngest player in England’s history, Sancho’s Borussia Dortmund team-mate coming on in the closing stages for his debut at the tender age of 17 years, 136 days.
Ireland were without a host of regular names due to injury and failed to have a shot on target in the opening 70 minutes, with Stephen Kenny still waiting for his first win in charge.
There would have been a few envious glares at the England teamsheet which contained both Grealish and Michael Keane, who both represented the Republic of Ireland at youth level.
Grealish has been in fine form for Aston Villa and impressed on his second England start as Southgate gave him another chance to stake his claim for a more regular position in his side.
After a moment of applause for recently-deceased former England internationals Nobby Stiles, Albert Quixall and Tony Waiters, the current crop set about settling this friendly as soon as possible.
The visitors struggled to defend set-pieces all night and Tyrone Mings should have done better with an early back-post header.
Ireland’s defensive cause was not helped when they were forced into an early change as Sheffield United defender John Egan was replaced by Dara O’Shea after suffering a bang on the head.
Maguire would head England in front soon after as he put some of his recent woes behind him by heading home a Harry Winks cross with 17 minutes on the clock.
That led to a dominant spell of possession for the hosts with Calvert-Lewin seeing a shot blocked by Shane Duffy after fine work from both Grealish and Reece James.
Maguire almost doubled his tally for the evening from the resulting corner but this time Darren Randolph was able to turn a towering header over the bar.
There was nothing the West Ham goalkeeper could do to prevent Sancho adding a second for England just after the half-hour mark.
The Borussia Dortmund forward collected a Grealish pass and bent a fine finish into the corner of Randolph’s goal.
The same duo combined moments later, a fine Grealish ball freeing Sancho but this time his effort was blocked behind by Cyrus Christie.
Southgate switched his goalkeepers at the interval as Nick Pope was replaced by Dean Henderson for the Manchester United man’s debut.
The action would largely continue in the opposing box as Bukayo Saka missed a chance to open his international account at the end of a free-flowing move before Calvert-Lewin fluffed his lines with a header.
He would make amends by adding the third goal from the penalty spot, cracking home from 12 yards after Saka – who enjoyed a fine evening as an attacking wing-back – had been felled by Christie.
Southgate used England’s dominance to give more minutes to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Phil Foden and Tammy Abraham – while 17-year-old Bellingham was also introduced, with only Theo Walcott and Wayne Rooney making their debuts at a younger age.
England took their foot off the gas in the closing stages as Ireland enjoyed their first sustained pressure of the night but still drew their fifth blank in succession.
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