Harry Kane’s fairytale season continued with a goal one minute and two touches into his England debut to take the headlines from England’s comfortable 4-0 win Euro 2016 qualifying win over Lithuania on Friday.
Despite the clamor for the Premier League’s top scorer to make a starting debut, the Tottenham striker had to bide his time from the bench as Roy Hodgson’s selection was vindicated by forward trio Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Raheem Sterling all finding the net. But with 19 minutes remaining Kane made his bow. And the player who, on the back of several largely underwhelming loan spells has fired 19 Premier League goals this campaign, took just 79 seconds to further his remarkable story with a back-post header from Sterling’s delightful cross.
It was the moment an impressively packed Wembley crowd had been waiting for on a night where the result was never truly in doubt. While Kane got his England career up and running, a man who arrived in the team to similar hype 12 years ago, Rooney, took his tally for his country to 47. A header just six minutes in after Welbeck’s initial shot had been saved means the England captain now moves just two shy of Bobby Charlton in the hunt to become the country’s all-time record goalscorer. Welbeck, lively alongside his former Manchester United colleague, especially early on, made it 2-0 before the break when his mistimed header beat the goalkeeper after a heavy deflection off a Lithuanian defender.
Lithuania, beaten by the same scoreline in Switzerland last time out, threatened only one, and went further behind in the second half when Rooney set up Sterling to turn in his first goal for his country on his 14th appearance. But his current status ensures that it will be the contribution of Kane 17 minutes from the end that grabs the attention and could well earn him a starting spot when England take on Italy in a friendly on Tuesday. England will go into that match on the back of making it five wins from five matches in qualifying as they continue to cruise toward next year’s European Championship.
England’s path to France has been comfortable ever since an opening victory in Switzerland, and this latest challenge likewise provided few obstacles. On their country’s first ever visit to Wembley, Lithuania appeared overawed early on and could have been behind even quicker than they ultimately were. Just four minutes in, Rooney was allowed to run through from Fabian Delph’s simple lofted ball forward, but the man who has returned to a striking role of late at Old Trafford will have been disappointed that his low finish struck the inside of the post and rolled the wrong side of the line.
It did not take long for him to make amends. On his first England appearance since October 2013, Michael Carrick added much assuredness with his passing. And one of his fine balls into the forward line was seized upon by Welbeck, before his low shot was repelled well by visiting goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis, but only up to Rooney to head in. While he seemingly continues to divide opinion, he now has eight goals in his last nine England appearances and it is only a matter of time before he becomes his country’s most prolific goalscorer ever.
He may have some disappointment that the record is not already his. In the 19th minute, he was denied by the woodwork for a second time, this time when his header came back off the crossbar. England had to wait for their next goal, and Lithuania briefly threatened , but the result was effectively sealed on the stroke of halftime. There was little pretty about it, with Welbeck meeting Jordan Henderson’s cross with his shoulder and then seeing it bounce into the midriff of Tadas Kijanskas to wrong-foot Arlauskis in goal.
The third goal, just prior to the hour mark, had more quality about it. Rooney was fed down the right flank and he produced a fine ball across the six-yard box for Sterling to produce a simple finish. With the business done, Hodgson could introduce Kane without pressure. But, in truth, given the way everything he has touched to gold of late, it was always likely he would make an instant impact. So it was when, after Sterling’s superb work down the left, he rose unchallenged and got just enough on his header to beat the desperate attempt of the goalkeeper to claw the ball out.