Kane ends England goal drought to sink Albania

AFP

29th March, 2021 10:52:35 printer

Kane ends England goal drought to sink Albania

Gareth Southgate admitted England have room for improvement after Harry Kane ended his six-game goal drought to inspire a 2-0 win against Albania in Sunday's World Cup qualifier.

Southgate's side struggled to break down the well-organised underdogs until the Tottenham striker netted late in the first half in Tirana.

It was the England captain's first international goal since he scored against Kosovo 500 days ago in November 2019.

Back in the starting line-up after being rested for Thursday's 5-0 demolition of San Marino, Kane now has 33 goals in 52 England appearances.

Kane also set up Mason Mount's second half goal as England made it two successive Group I victories on the road to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Robert Lewandowski's Poland visit Wembley on Wednesday for England's first serious test of the qualifying campaign.

After finishing as the 2018 World Cup top scorer in England's run to the semi-finals, Kane hopes to lead his country to glory at the delayed Euro 2020 later this year.

But after this scrappy display against a team 62 places below them in the FIFA world rankings, Southgate conceded there is work to do if England are to win a first major prize since the 1966 World Cup.

"I didn't like the way we managed the game in the last 15 minutes, charging forward when we didn't need to. I'm pleased with the win but there are areas we can tighten up on," Southgate said.

"We have to keep pushing this group. There's a lot of talk about us and what we potentially might be, but if we want to deliver we've got to have really high standards.

"I think we can get better. They should enjoy the win but I think we can improve."

Kane insisted he was never troubled by his sudden lack of England goals, saying: "I have always said as a striker, sometimes you go through spells where everything you touch goes in and sometimes it just doesn't go your way.

"You just have to stay focused on doing your job for the team and thankfully we did that. It's great to get the three points."

Mount's goal emphasised his emergence as a key member of Southgate's team and his latest influential display drew a waspish rebuke for his critics from the England boss.

 

- Clinical Kane -

Criticised for picking Mount instead of Aston Villa's Jack Grealish last year, Southgate said Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel's faith in the 22-year-old since replacing Frank Lampard has suddenly made him fashionable.

"I thought his performance was excellent. I was saying in the autumn that he is a very good player. Now Thomas Tuchel picks him, everyone agrees. When Frank did it, it didn't count for some reason," Southgate said.

"He finds space intelligently, he manipulates the ball very well, he creates chances, he can score goals."

England struggled to open up the massed Albanian defence, but they finally produced an incisive attack to take the lead in the 38th minute.

Raheem Sterling and Mount worked the ball wide to Luke Shaw on the left and the in-form Manchester United defender, making his first England appearance since 2018, picked out Kane with a fine cross.

Timing his run perfectly to elude his marker, Kane glanced a clinical header into the far corner from 10 yards.

The 27-year-old nearly scored again when he met Sterling's cross just five yards from goal, but this time he fired against the crossbar.

Sterling's nimble footwork set up Phil Foden for a low strike that Etrit Berisha pushed onto the woodwork early in the second half.

In the 63rd minute, Kane seized on Albania's risky attempt to play out from the back and played a perfect pass to Mount, who guided a crisp finish into the far corner for his fourth England goal.


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