John Stones, Kyle Walker, Kalvin Phillips and Jack Grealish all started in Naples while Phil Foden made a brief cameo from the bench on a night where Three Lions captain Harry Kane also became his nation’s record goalscorer.
It was an equally positive evening for Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva who helped Portugal to a 4-0 win over Lichtenstein, with the latter two both among the goals, while Shea Charles also played the full 90 minutes as Northern Ireland beat San Marino.
And a late strike from Riyad Mahrez ensured Algeria maintained their 100% start to AFCON qualification with a 2-1 win over Niger.
But it was our English contingent who will perhaps be most pleased with victory against a side who they hadn’t beaten away from home since 1961 and who will likely be their biggest challenge for top spot in qualification.
Gareth Southgate’s side were quicker out of the traps in Naples, with Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham forcing a fine save out of Gianluigi Donnarumma with a stinging drive early on.
But the Three Lions wouldn’t have to wait much longer for the breakthrough, with Declan Rice firing home on the rebound from the resultant corner after the hosts had blocked Kane’s initial effort at the far post.
England continued to press forward with Phillips firing just wide of post from the edge of the box on the half hour, but they were presented with a golden opportunity to double their advantage on the stroke of half-time when Giovanni Di Lorenzo handled inside the area.
And Harry Kane made no mistake, sending Donnarumma the wrong way from the spot for his record 54th international strike.
It could even have been three before the break when England broke forward almost immediately from the restart, but Grealish sliced his effort wide of the target having been set up by Kane.
It was a different story in the second half, with the Italians halving the deficit inside ten minutes of the restart when Mateo Retegui marked his senior international debut with a clinical finish.
Foden was introduced to the action with 20 to play but what was already a tough assignment became all the more difficult when Luke Shaw was astonishingly given his marching orders for two yellow cards inside 54 seconds.
Needing to bring on a defender to see out the win, it was the City winger who was replaced by Kieran Trippier, but the Three Lions would weather the storm in Naples to start their campaign with what could be a vital three points.
It was a similarly good night for Mahrez, whose late intervention helped Algeria make it three wins from three in Group F of Africa Cup of Nations qualifying.
The winger, who also captains his nation, struck as stoppage time approached to help the Desert Eagles overturn a one goal deficit against Niger.
Daniel Sosah had handed the visitors the lead before the break, but Mahrez and co. levelled when Abdel Rahim Bonkano Alhassane put into his own net after the restart.
It looked like the 2019 AFCON winners would have to settle for a point, but a dramatic 89th minute goal from the City winger sealed the victory.
Elsewhere Portuguese trio Bernardo, Dias and Cancelo cruised to victory over Lichtenstein.
Cancelo – on loan at Bayern Munich – opened the scoring inside ten minutes, with Bernardo then doubling the advantage early in the second 45.
A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo would set the seal on a comfortable triumph for the World Cup quarter-finalists.
Finally, City youngster Charles started in the heart of midfield as Northern Ireland also began their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a win.
A brace from Bolton forward Dion Charles was enough to earn Michael O’Neill’s side over the line in Serravalle.