Saka ‘doesn’t need closure’ says Southgate after forward’s goal in England win v Andorra

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Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring for England against Andorra in a World Cup qualifying match
Bukayo Saka became the first player to score on his birthday for the senior men’s England team since Steven Gerrard in May 2006

Gareth Southgate says Bukayo Saka “does not need closure” after scoring on his first Wembley outing since missing the decisive penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final loss to Italy.

Saka marked his 20th birthday by netting the fourth goal in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra.

The Arsenal forward was subjected to racist abuse in the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final.

“It was a lovely moment for him to score,” said England boss Southgate.

“He got a fabulous reception before and during the game. You can see how popular he is with the team.”

Southgate consoled Saka on the Wembley pitch after defeat by Italy two months ago.

Asked if Saka’s goal would bring closure to the player, Southgate added: “From my perspective he doesn’t need closure.

“The talent that he has, he is a hugely exciting player. No need from our side for closure.”

Saka, who has two goals in 11 appearances for the Three Lions, capped a strong England finish against an Andorra side 156th in Fifa’s rankings.

Southgate made 11 changes and gave a debut to Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, while midfielder Jude Bellingham and goalkeeper Sam Johnstone made their first competitive starts for their country.

Jesse Lingard gave England the lead but fans had to wait until the 72nd minute for the next goal, a penalty by substitute Harry Kane.

Manchester United’s Lingard added the third before Saka’s goal was greeted by huge cheers.

Bukayo Saka in action for England against Andorra in a World Cup qualifying match at Wembley
Bukayo Saka finished the game with one goal and one assist after setting up Jesse Lingard for England’s third goal

‘The perfect birthday present’

Saka said the reception he received before and during the game made him feel “really happy”.

“It shows how proud they are of me and that meant a lot,” he told ITV.

“It means everything to me that I know they support me.

“This is what I dream about, playing at Wembley in front of my family and this crowd and scoring on my 20th birthday.”

Southgate added: “I had a longer catch-up with him a couple of days ago. My thoughts from the summer are all positive.”

England have five wins out of five in World Cup qualifying and now travel to Poland for Wednesday’s qualifier in Warsaw.

‘Bellingham is world class’

It was a far from vintage performance by England on their first Wembley appearance since Euro 2020.

However, 18-year-old midfielder Bellingham impressed with an energetic performance.

Former England defender Matthew Upson described the Borussia Dortmund player’s display as “infectious”.

Jude Bellingham in action for England against Andorra in a World Cup qualifying match at Wembley
Jude Bellingham was making his second start for England and his first in a competitive fixture

“The game needed his type of energy. It needed players to have that type of drive and Bellingham certainly has that,” Upson told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“I think he is world class. I am so impressed by him.”