Harry’s Hou­dini act saves Eng­land

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Twice wres­tled to the ground dur­ing the match, Eng­land cap­tain Harry Kane fi­nally evaded the Tu­nisian de­fence just as time was run­ning out.

Kane found an open area of space at the far post and used his head to meet Harry Maguire’s flick-on, scor­ing the win­ning goal yes­ter­day in a 2-1 vic­tory at the World Cup.

It was re­lief for Kane and man­ager Gareth South­gate, who leapt into the air in de­light as his World Cup de­but as a coach got off to a win­ning start.

‘‘The best teams in the world keep that be­lief in what they’re do­ing,’’ South­gate said, ‘‘and in the end they break the op­po­si­tion down.’’

Eng­land shouldn’t have found it so tough in their group G opener against such op­po­si­tion. Not af­ter Kane got Eng­land off to a per­fect start with an 11th-minute tap-in. But af­ter Kyle Walker softly con­ceded a penalty that Fer­jani Sassi con­verted in the 35th, many of the fouls went against Eng­land.

‘‘Maybe there was a bit of jus­tice at the end,’’ Kane said.

Fi­nally, Kane show­cased on the in­ter­na­tional stage the preda­tory in­stinct in front of goal that has served Tot­ten­ham so well. Only two years ago, the striker failed to find the net at the 2016 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship, which ended in hu­mil­i­a­tion with a loss to Ice­land in the last 16.

The team has been trans­formed by South­gate since then. For all the placid­ness and to­geth­er­ness within the group, South­gate has added per­sis­tence and dogged­ness.

‘‘It shows the work we have put in these last few weeks,’’ Walker said. ‘‘To­geth­er­ness and be­liev­ing in our­selves.’’

At the last World Cup, Eng­land couldn’t even win a game. Low ex­pec­ta­tions for this year’s over­hauled team were dis­pelled early in Rus­sia when Kane re­acted quickly to score af­ter John Stones’ header was saved. But Eng­land strug­gled to fin­ish it off.

When Walker’s flail­ing arm caught Fakhred­dine Ben Youssef, a penalty was awarded and Sassi slot­ted it in to equalise.

Eng­land’s play­ers later thought they de­served the same ver­dict when Kane was grap­pled to the ground twice by Tunisians on ei­ther side of the half­time break. Both times, the ref­eree de­cided against pun­ish­ing the cul­prits.

De­spite it all, Kane re­mained pa­tient and de­liv­ered in the first minute of stop­page time.

‘‘You go un­til the last sec­ond,’’ Kane said, ‘‘and I’m ab­so­lutely buzzing.’’

In the other group B match, Dries Mertens’ per­fectly struck vol­ley fi­nally opened up Panama and al­lowed Romelu Lukaku to take full ad­van­tage.

Lukaku scored two goals in a sixminute span in the sec­ond half as Bel­gium earned a 3-0 vic­tory over Panama.

In group F, Swe­den got the break they needed from the video re­view sys­tem, and team cap­tain An­dreas Gran­qvist didn’t waste the chance.

Gran­qvist slid his penalty kick into the bot­tom right cor­ner of the net in the 65th minute to give Swe­den a 1-0 vic­tory over South Korea.

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