Football: Late Kane goal fires lacklustre England to World Cup

England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring.
England's Harry Kane celebrates after scoring.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (REUTERS) – Harry Kane’s stoppage time goal earned England a 1-0 victory over Slovenia on Thursday (Oct 5) and a place at next year’s World Cup finals although his last-gasp effort barely masked a sterile Wembley display by the hosts.

The England skipper pounced from close range to convert Kyle Walker’s cross in the 94th minute after a night of frustration for Gareth Southgate’s misfiring team in a half-full stadium.

A draw would have sufficed thanks to Slovakia’s 1-0 defeat away to the Scots but Kane’s effort, his 14th of the season in all competitions for club and country, at least prevented the inevitable boos that would have greeted a goalless stalemate.

It was Kane’s second real chance of the evening – his other effort being well saved by Jan Oblak early in the first half.

England top Group F with 23 points to second-placed Scotland’s 17 and have one game to go in Lithuania on Sunday. They have now not lost in 38 qualifying matches.

While England’s display will not raise too many hopes of great things in Russia, at least in Kane they have a striker who gives them a puncher’s chance of making progress.

“We have qualified, and that’s all that matters. We had to be patient and in the last 10 minutes they were getting tired,” Kane, who wore the captain’s armband for the third time and the first time at home, said.

“It’s no easy feat these days (to reach a World Cup). We’re all delighted. We have another game on Sunday and we need to keep doing what we’re doing and working hard.”

Paper aeroplanes rained down from the seats in the second half – each one that made the pitch earning a huge cheer from the fans who watched England’s laboured performance.

BRIGHT START

The home side began brightly enough with Manchester United youngster Marcus Rashford causing problems up front.

Kane got his first sight of goal after 15 minutes and worked Oblak with a 25-metre shot the keeper gathered near his post.

Rashford also whipped in a devilish cross that needed only a slight touch from someone to have opened the scoring.

It was not a completely convincing start by England, though, and Slovenia had a half-hearted penalty appeal when Josip Ilicic went down under a challenge from goalkeeper Joe Hart.

Slovenia’s Oblak was then called into action again in the 26th minute, diving to his left to palm away a Jordan Henderson shot after good work by Rashford and Raheem Sterling.

England lacked the guile to cut through a forest of green-shirted defenders. Rashford surprised Oblak with a free-kick aimed just inside the near post on the stroke of halftime but the Atletico Madrid keeper got down just in time.

There was a warning sign for England at the start of the second half when Bojan Jokic met a floated cross with a downward header which Hart fumbled slightly before smothering.

There were some jittery moments in England’s defence with Hart having to race off his line to avert the danger late on.

But with many England fans already heading home, Kane pounced in the area to strike and lift the mood.