Kane strike sends England to the World Cup
05 October, 2017 — By Paul Cowling
World Cup Qualifying, Group F
ENGLAND 1, SLOVENIA
PAPER planes, a boring game, a pitch invader and Harry Kane.
The Spurs and England goal king celebrated his captaincy for the night with the injury-time winner that ensured England’s qualification for the World Cup in Russia.
But in the end this bizarre international match will be best remembered for a poor England performance and the slow trajectory of hand-made paper aeroplanes.
Against weak opposition England struggled and failed to entertain. Against far better opposition next summer, the Three Lions’ usual tournament misery could well continue.
“Are we going to be like Spain in eight months? No,” said a candid Gareth Southgate, after the match.
But the England manager also paid tribute to Kane.
“It was great that the captain kept scoring. A little bit of leadership is also starting to emerge,” said Southgate.
Despite Kane’s matchwinner, Southgate was still mindful of the team’s performance.
“There is frustration, but we stuck at it. We have to be a team that scores late goals, and not concede them.”
The first half saw only long-range efforts from Kane and Jordan Henderson to show for 45 minutes’ work.
By the hour mark, and with the crowd and the game drifting to sleep, the noise levels finally livened up, but only because of the roars from the crowd that greeted the paper darts that managed to touch down on the Wembley pitch.
On the pitch, England continued to lack belief.
On 63 minutes, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford found themselves clean through on goal. Sterling didn’t have the confidence to go on himself, but instead left it to Rashford who chipped the ball when he should have smashed it. His weak effort was cleared off the line by Miha Mevlja.
It could have got even more embarrassing for England on 83 minutes when Tim Matavz was put through on goal, but Joe Hart spared their blushes twice as he saved smartly and then blocked the rebound from Aljaz Struna.
“It was a great save from Joe Hart,” said Southgate.
With the game still scoreless, and after a brief interruption from a pitch invader, England were heading to Russia anyway, due to results elsewhere in the group.
But deep into six minutes of injury-time, the otherwise poor Kyle Walker found his best cross of the night, and there was Kane to toe-poke home.
The Atletico Madrid shot-stopper beat the turf with the palm of his hand in frustration, and England had somehow sneaked the win they didn’t deserve.
ENGLAND: Hart, Walker, Cahill, Stones, Bertrand, Henderson, Dier, Oxlade-Chamberlain (Lingard, 63) Sterling (Keane, 84) Rashford, Kane.