Rashford grasps England redemption with moment of symmertry in Italy win

The stench of misery from the Euro 2020 final will be forever embedded in the nostrils of anyone who was at Wembley that night. Well anyone who wasn’t Italian.

For Marcus Rashford though it must be seared into his soul.

The missed penalty in the shoot-out and the unforgivable abuse which followed made it an occasion he will remember for all the wrong reasons.

Out of that darkness came light with the heartening outpouring of public support for him but Wembley and Italy must still have been a trigger for him last night.

So the moment when he hammered his 57th minute goal past Gianluigi Donnarumma – yes the same Donnarumma who had broken English hearts 27 months ago – must have felt like some sort of deliverance.

The fact that it just happened to be the same end at Wembley added a sweet symmetry.

This was only his fourth start in England’s 29 internationals since then – thanks to the twin shacklings of fitness and form.

He has not exactly flown out of the blocks in a struggling Manchester United side at the start of this season but his selection ahead of Jack Grealish down the left for England offered him a chance, if not to wipe the hard drive on that night, then at least to refresh the page.

For his teammates too.

Kyle Walker, as one of eight England survivors of the final, admitted there was an element of payback driving the side under the arch even though they have faced the Italians three times since.

The arc back towards that final was less relevant for Italy with only three of the team and under new management after Roberto Mancini’s departure to Saudi Arabia.

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The match, like all last night’s Euro qualifiers, was preceded by a moment’s silence.

It was, according to UEFA, in memory of “all the members of the European football family killed in recent days in Europe and Israel” – although quite why they would want to limit the parameters of empathy in such a way is anyone’s guess.

Gesture politics are hard to get right, clearly.

The football itself had some controversy too with Kalvin Phillips lucky to escape a second booking and dismissal in the second half but overall England were good value for the result which booked their passage to the finals next summer.

Rashford had the first opportunity for the home side but was just over the bar with a dipping long-range free-kick in the 12th minute.

He is less at home when he is required to track back – as was shown when he was unable to get back in time to prevent the cross from Giovanni Di Lorenzo that set up Gianluca Scammaca’s opening goal.

And while he headed down a few too many blind alleys in the first half in his eagerness to make his mark but there were some slick lay-offs and his pace had Italy’s defence on their guard at all times.

Donnarumma was forced into a smart stop, low down to his left in the 43th minute from Rashford’s well-struck shot after his acceleration had won him half a yard of space.

There is an elegance about Rashford in full flight but it is no fun to defend against.

When his moment came after the break, Italy backed off and backed off and when the cut inside came, the finish left the giant goalkeeper rooted to the spot.

As retribution nights go, it could not have gone much better.

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