Kane lays ghost of penalties to rest

Skipper converts both England's spot kicks, extends streak to eight in win over Bulgaria

LONDON • Penalties were once taboo for England - before last year's World Cup in Russia, they had suffered six defeats in seven shoot-outs in major tournaments.

The Three Lions, though, have gotten over that mental hump in large part to Harry Kane.

The England captain again showcased his prowess at penalties, twice converting to make it eight in a row from the spot for his country, sealing his second treble as Gareth Southgate's men smashed Bulgaria 4-0 in their Euro 2020 qualifier at Wembley on Saturday.

Kane became the first player to score 25 in his first 40 international appearances since former great Gary Lineker, while also assisting in Raheem Sterling's strike, leaving Southgate to sing praises of his skipper and his ice-cool nerves.

The England coach said: "To be able to study him and the way he works at his game, for the youngsters, he's an incredible example.

"We stood and watched him take penalties for about 20 minutes yesterday. When you watch the process he goes through, he just gives himself every chance of succeeding by that deliberate practice.

"If you can be confident on the bench when a penalty is given, we're as confident as we possibly could be.

Harry Kane scoring his second penalty against Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday, taking him past Geoff Hurst and Stan Mortensen to 14th place on the list of England’s all-time goalscorers.
Harry Kane scoring his second penalty against Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday, taking him past Geoff Hurst and Stan Mortensen to 14th place on the list of England’s all-time goalscorers. PHOTO: DPA

"You always know there's a chance that even the most outstanding penalty can be saved, but in those moments, he really has supreme temperament and technique."

The Tottenham striker agreed with Southgate that his outstanding conversion rate - according to the BBC, it is 90 per cent for club and country - was down to hard work on the training ground.

He also called his passing of Geoff Hurst (24) and Stan Mortensen (23) on the list of England's all-time goal-scorers "a proud moment" although his end goal was ultimately silverware.

ROLE MODEL

To be able to study him and the way he works at his game, for the youngsters, he's an incredible example. When you watch the process he goes through, he just gives himself every chance of succeeding by that deliberate practice.

GARETH SOUTHGATE, England coach, singing praises of his captain Harry Kane, whose two penalties and an earlier strike - plus a goal from Raheem Sterling from his assist - gave the Three Lions a 4-0 victory over Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday.

Kane added: "Just practice. It could be 10, 15 (a day), it depends how I'm feeling on the day. We've got such explosive players we are going to get penalties and it's important the people on the pitch can put them away.

"That's the aim. That is what you will be judged on at the end of your career.

"It's great to get goals, but England haven't won a trophy for a long time. That is my goal as captain."

Sterling and Kane have now scored 10 of England's 14 goals in three games to maintain their 100 per cent record and the Group A leaders already look odds-on to reach Euro 2020, with their next game against second-placed Kosovo, who are a point behind on eight, at home tomorrow.

But Southgate urged his players not to get carried away by their dominant start to their qualifying campaign as they will face far sterner tests to come than what Bulgaria provided.

The former Middlesbrough manager told reporters: "Have we progressed? Well, I think we have. We didn't sit back after the World Cup (they finished fourth in Russia and third in June's Nations League).

"We're competitive with probably eight teams. On our day, we can beat those teams... and it really is a tight grouping."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2019, with the headline 'Kane lays ghost of penalties to rest'. Print Edition | Subscribe