Marcus Rashford scored a stunning free-kick to open the scoring in a 3-0 victory for England

‘I’m pleased I scored for him’: Marcus Rashford dedicates goals against Wales to friend who died two days ago after a long battle with cancer… after England star dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky following his stunning free-kick

Marcus Rashford has revealed the emotional reasoning behind the celebration for his first goal in England’s 3-0 victory over Wales.

It was a memorable night for the Manchester United forward who scored twice to ensure England took top spot in Group B and advance to the last-16.

After scoring his first goal, Rashford dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky in what was a poignant celebration for the man-of-the-match’s friend, Garfield Hayward, who died two days before the game after a long battle with cancer. 

Marcus Rashford scored a stunning free-kick to open the scoring in a 3-0 victory for England

Marcus Rashford scored a stunning free-kick to open the scoring in a 3-0 victory for England

Marcus Rashford posted a selfie to his Instagram account following his heroics with the caption: 'Special moments'

Marcus Rashford posted a selfie to his Instagram account following his heroics with the caption: ‘Special moments’

Rashford kisses his partner Lucia Loi as England's players greeter their families following the match

Rashford kisses his partner Lucia Loi as England’s players greeter their families following the match

Rashford sits with his girlfriend Ms Loi and gives a thumbs up after his brace helped England reach the last 16

Rashford sits with his girlfriend Ms Loi and gives a thumbs up after his brace helped England reach the last 16

After celebrating with his team-mates he dropped to his knees and pointed towards the sky

After celebrating with his team-mates he dropped to his knees and pointed towards the sky

Rashford celebrates after scoring his second and England's third in their win over Wales

Rashford celebrates after scoring his second and England’s third in their win over Wales

England manager Gareth Southgate embraces Rashford as the pair leave the pitch at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

England manager Gareth Southgate embraces Rashford as the pair leave the pitch at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

Rashford dedicated the goal to a friend who has recently died after a long battle with cancer

Rashford dedicated the goal to a friend who has recently died after a long battle with cancer

During his post-match interview, he said: ‘I lost one of my friends a couple of days ago. 

‘He had quite a long battle with cancer. I’m pleased I scored for him, he was a big supporter and good friend of mine. He was someone who came into my life.’

Rashford was brought into the starting eleven for the first time in Qatar and has given Gareth Southgate a selection headache going into their last-16 clash with Senegal on Sunday.

‘It’s been a challenge for him,’ said the England manager, who was unaware that Rashford’s friend had died in the build-up to the game.

‘I went and saw him in the summer, had a long chat with him and he had some clear ideas on things that he felt he needed to think about and to do.

It was a big night for Rashford who also scored England's third goal as they sealed qualification

It was a big night for Rashford who also scored England’s third goal as they sealed qualification

‘He could have had a hat-trick, really, with the chance in the first half and then the one at the near post towards the end.

‘But great for him and because it’s great for him it’s great for us.’

After a quiet opening half, England stepped up a gear in the second with Rashford scoring a stunning free-kick to give the Three Lions the lead.

Man City star Phil Foden doubled the lead before Rashford added a third for the Three Lions – having also scored as a substitute in the 6-2 victory over Iran. 

Rashford took to Twitter after the game to post his second goal celebration, as he jumped for joy, surrounded by his England teammates, alongside the captain: “Last 16 here we come.”

Rashford has given Gareth Southgate a selection headache after only bringing in the Man United star for the Wales game after he started on the bench in the prior two games

Rashford has given Gareth Southgate a selection headache after only bringing in the Man United star for the Wales game after he started on the bench in the prior two games

The 25-year-old after the game told the BBC: ‘It’s obviously a great feeling. We were disappointed as a team after the last game, we could have played a lot better. The only way to bounce back is to play better in your next game.

‘Moments like this, this is what I play football for. I am really happy today to be going into the next round of the tournament, because I have massive ambition for this team and I think we can go a lot further.’

Speaking of his free-kick goal which opened the scoring and eventually sparked England’s victory, Rashford said: “I fancied one in the first half, but the one in the second was in a better position. Then it’s being calm and executing what you do in training.”

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