The Riverside had high hopes that an Arsenal man would take apart the Belgium U21s on Wednesday night, but rather than Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain it was Henri Lansbury who stole the show for the Young Lions.
Two goals for the current West Ham loanee steered Lansbury to the man of the match award in the 4-nil rout in Euro 2013 qualifying. However it was his first goal – an outrageous, wind-assisted, 35-yard effort hit from close to the left touchline in only the ninth minute – which left the indelible imprint on proceedings.
“Henri said he meant it but I’m not so sure,” said Brian Eastick (England’s stand in coach in the absence of head coach Stuart Pearce). “He had a smile on his face when he told me.”
Lansbury shined in an all-round positive performance. After his eye-catching opener, the young Gunner delivered the corner which led to England extending their lead as Steven Caulker powered in a header from six yards, reacting first to a flick-on from his defensive partner Craig Dawson.
Later Lansbury doubled his tally when he converted a cutback from debutant Wilfried Zaha in the 53rd minute, but the Arsenal man was denied the chance of a hat-trick as he was withdrawn 17 minutes from time. Oxlade-Chamberlain completed the whitewash in added time.
Whilst many Arsenal will now be dreaming that Lansbury returns to the Emirates and translates such shifts for the North Londoners, the reality is that the striker’s immediate priority is to find his way into the starting line-up for Sam Allardyce’s Hammers. Whilst at Upton Park, Lansbury has struggled to receive regular football (he has only playing 820 minutes this season in 13 appearances which had yielded just one goal), and the attacker admitted as much in his post match interview.
“I’m just trying to get back into the team so I need to keep working hard for myself,” said Lansbury. “Coming here helps massively and it’s great to get some playing time under my belt.”