Bukayo Saka scored his first senior hat-trick for England in a ruthless 7-0 win over North Macedonia in UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying.
Saka’s first two goals in the 38th and 47th minutes respectively came from stunning strikes into the roof of the net, before he completed his hat-trick with a calmly take low shot from Harry Kane’s diagonal through ball in the 51st minute.
Kane netted twice with a 29th minute opening goal and 73rd minute penalty, whilst Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips also found the net – albeit either side of Saka’s second and third goals.
The result meant that England stay top of Qualifying Group C and six points clear of second-placed Ukraine who beat Malta, through Viktor Tsyhankov’s second-half penalty.
Speaking post-match to Channel 4, a “happy” Saka described his hat-trick as “a feeling I can’t put into words.”
“Tonight was a really special display. We went out with me and Rashy down the wings. Sharp, direct. They couldn’t handle us.”
Ahead of kick-off, Gareth Southgate opted to make three changes to his England line-up as Kieran Trippier, Marc Guehi and James Maddison dropped to the bench, whilst Kyle Walker, John Stones and Rashford came into the starting line-up.
Southgate’s decision to name Rashford in the starting eleven proved wise as the Manchester United forward looked energetic in a drab but dominant opening 27 minutes, aside from Saka’s second minute shot which was saved by Stole Dimitrievski.
England’s dominance almost paid dividends in the 28th minute but Harry Maguire headed wide from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner.
Rashford though would eventually play a crucial role a minute later as he met a diagonal cross from the right, from which he slipped a short through ball into the box for Shaw to gather and cut back for Kane to smash in from close-range to put England ahead.
England almost doubled their lead in the 32nd minute as Saka picked up the ball on the right flank and curled towards Rashford at the back-post, but the 25 year-old’s cutback volley was bundled wide by Jordan Henderson.
Saka however would add England’s second goal six minutes later as he met Kyle Walker’s short cross from the right and lashed into the roof of the net on his weaker right foot, which only served to make England more eager to finish the tie off before half-time.
That motivation soon proved true as Kane pouned upon a mistake on the left flank and played in Henderson, who cut back across the box to Saka but Rashford calmly swept into the space near Saka and fired in England’s third goal to give them a comfortable half-time lead.
North Macedonia in response substituted Stefan Ristovski for Egzon Bejtulai in hope of sparking a second-half comeback, which were quickly extinguished two minutes into the restart as Saka met Trent Alexander-Arnold’s long ball and calmly smashed in for his second goal of the game.
Saka however wasn’t settled for just a brace at Old Trafford as he pounced upon a diagonal through ball from Kane, from which he sprinted forward and rolled in beyond the outcoming Dimitrievski to complete his first hat-trick as a senior player.
His hat-trick also meant that Saka at 21 years and 287 days was the youngest player – plus first Arsenal player since Theo Walcott against Croatia in September 2008 to score a hat-trick for England Men’s team.
England’s evening got even better as substitute, Jack Grealish’s cross towards Kane was deflected across for Phillips to slot in from close-range to score their sixth goal.
Bejtulai fouled John Stones during a 72nd minute corner by tugging the defender to ground, from which Kane stepped up and dispatched the penalty into the top-left corner to score his seventh goal in his last six international appearances.
Southgate’s Three Lions eventually cruised to a fourth consecutive win and their biggest winning margin since they hammered San Marino 10-0 in November 2021 away in Serravalle in their final qualifier for 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Manager, Gareth Southgate post-match speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live praised his team for their “hunger” on and off the ball with excellent “mentality” at the end of a longer season than normal.
Southgate proceeded to applaud Saka for his hat-trick despite playing with a knock, as he said: “All the credit is with him. He works incredibly hard. He’s talented, he’s humble.
“He’s hugely popular with all of the players and all of the staff and I have to say his finishing has been like that all week. We weren’t surprised by the first one, that’s how he’s been all week, we hadn’t seen the second one coming!
“I am delighted for him. He’s had a slightly sore Achilles and it’s another one where it would have been easy to lull out on the camp and miss out on a night like this that I’m sure will live with him forever.”
England are next in action on Saturday 9 September away to second-placed Ukraine in a 6pm CET (5pm UK Time) kick-off.
North Macedonia meanwhile host Italy later that evening in a 8:45pm CET kick-off in Skopje.
England: Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Declan Rice (Phillips 59′), Jordan Henderson (Gallagher 58′), Bukayo Saka (Foden 59′), Harry Kane (Wilson 74′), Marcus Rashford (Grealish 58′)
Substitutes: Kieran Trippier, Aaron Ramsdale, Marc Guehi, Kalvin Phillips, Tyrone Mings, Jack Grealish, James Maddison, Conor Gallagher, Phil Foden, Eberechi Eze, Sam Johnstone, Callum Wilson
North Macedonia: Stole Dimitrievski, Stefan Ristovski (Bejtulai 45′), Gjoko Zajkov (Serafimov 57′), Darko Velkovski, Stefan Ashkovski, Elif Elmas, Arijan Ademi (Atanasov 58′), Enis Bardhi (Dav.Babunski 67′), Ezgjan Alioski, Aleksandar Trajkovski (Dor.Babunski 57′), Ilija Nestorovski
Substitutes: Dejan Iliev, Egzon Bejtulai, Vladica Brdarovski, Nikola Serafimov, Jani Atanasov, Jovan Manev, David Babunski, Ljupche Doriev, Agon Elezi, Milan Ristovski, Dorian Babunski, Bojan Dimoski
Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania)