Returning to Wembley 56 days after their heartbreaking Euro 2020 final defeat to Italy on penalties, the Three Lions eventually ran out 4-0 winners against the minnows in Group I, with Jesse Lingard netting a brace and Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka – who missed the decisive spot-kick in July – also on target.
However, they only led 1-0 up until the final 18 minutes of a largely dour game, with substitutes Kane, Mason Mount and Jack Grealish eventually helping to add gloss to the scoreline after being introduced with half an hour to go.
With a trip to Poland ahead on Wednesday, Gareth Southgate initially made 11 changes to the team that beat Hungary 4-0 on Thursday in a match that was marred by racist abuse aimed at Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham by a section of the home crowd in Budapest.
Leeds striker Patrick Bamford – omitted from the squad for the Euros – was handed a senior England debut up front on his 28th birthday, supported by fellow birthday boy Saka and Lingard, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was handed a new experimental role in a midfield three alongside Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson and Bellingham.
West Brom’s Sam Johnstone was preferred to Nick Pope in goal with Jordan Pickford rested, with Reece James, Conor Coady, Tyrone Mings and Kieran Trippier starting in defence.
It took England 18 minutes to break the deadlock, with the busy and tricky Lingard – who produced a trademark Cristiano Ronaldo goal celebration – firing into the bottom corner after being teed up by Saka, with the impressive Bellingham showing wonderful feet to set up the attack.
Lingard had previously not scored for England since November 2018 and had the ball in the net again shortly afterwards, but his excellent lob was rightly ruled out for offside.
England completely dominated and controlled the remainder of the first half as you would expect against the team ranked 156th in the world by Fifa who have only ever won eight matches, but their performance was rather underwhelming as the paper planes – an unfortunate staple of Wembley matches such as these when the goals aren’t flying in – buzzed around the stadium from fans trying to keep themselves amused.
Saka had a shot deflected wide, Coady produced an instinctive overhead kick that landed on the roof of the net, Bamford just couldn’t turn home Saka’s brilliant cross to the back post and Bellingham fired into the side netting, but Andorra were delighted to make it to half-time only 1-0 behind.
England were straight back on the attack after the interval, with Bamford scuffing over and Chelsea’s James – now operating in holding midfield with Alexander-Arnold moved into right-back – smashing the crossbar with a lovely curled strike.
Southgate sent for the cavalry on the hour mark with his side struggling to break Andorra down, with Kane, Grealish and Mount replacing Bamford, Bellingham and James.
There was an instant impact from the substitutes, with Mount and Kane both involved as Saka was sent through and denied by goalkeeper Josep Gomes, with the offside flag then raised.
Mount and Grealish combined to great effect before the former was bundled over in the box by Christian Garcia, with Kane stepping up to fire home his 40th goal for his country – good to tie Michael Owen for fifth place on the all-time England list and only 13 behind record-holder Wayne Rooney.
The floodgates predictably opened late on as Andorra tired, with Lingard firing in a second with a toe poke and Saka heading in from Lingard’s drilled cross to bring about the biggest cheer of the evening.
Kane’s curled effort was tipped wide by Gomes and he also saw his blushes spared by the offside flag after somehow miscuing a left-footed volley against the post from close range after a cross from Grealish.
Lingard was also denied a hat-trick in the final minutes as England pushed in vain for a last-gasp fifth goal.
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