Steven Caulker believes England could hardly have hoped for better after an emphatic 4-0 win against Belgium left them seven points clear at the top of UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group 8.
The centre-back headed in England's second goal at Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium, Henri Lansbury scoring early in each half and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain adding a fourth from the penalty spot deep in added time to seal three valuable points. "It was a bit scrappy but we got four goals and a clean sheet so we can't be too critical of ourselves," Caulker told UEFA.com. "
We're delighted. We were confident we could win, it was a big game and we can't ask for anything more."
Caulker was perfectly positioned to flick in Craig Dawson's header and double England's advantage after 36 minutes – a goal he felt had been coming for some time. "It was my first goal for England. It's been coming the last few weeks. I've hit the post a few times in the league so it's been more than due. You've got to be in the right place at the right time and today was my day."
Brian Eastick took charge of England with usual coach Stuart Pearce in temporary charge of the senior side, although Caulker and midfielder Jordan Henderson both stressed disruption had been kept to a minimum. "Things didn't change much, training was the same and I'm sure the gaffer will be pleased with the result," Henderson explained.
The England captain was keen to pay tribute to Lansbury, who also delivered the corner for Caulker's goal in addition to the two strikes of his own. "Henri's a very good player and he was good again tonight," Henderson told UEFA.com. "He's always good to have in the team, he can keep the ball well and make things happen. He's got a lot of ability."
The result means that victory in their next – and penultimate – qualifier in Azerbaijan at the start of September would guarantee England first place in the group, although Henderson recognises there is still work to do. "It was a decent performance – we've got one or two things we can learn but overall we're happy with the three points. We need to be more solid defensively but we can work on that. There's room for improvement but we're in a good place and we want to win our last two matches."
Despite the margin of defeat, visiting captain Nill De Pauw acknowledged the lessons Belgium could take from the evening, saying: "It was an open game but we were less efficient than England. They had four chances but they also made the difference in other situations. We didn't score and that's the lesson from today. England are a very good team, very mature, and that's the difference with us. They deserved to win."
With a sizable crowd in attendance, forward De Pauw also reckoned the experience could have long-term benefits. "The crowd were [cheering] for both teams and it was very enjoyable," he said. "They were cheering our moves, which was nice. There were [more than] 20,000 people here and that's a very good experience for us."
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