Harry Kane put England safely through to the finals of the 2018 Russian World Cup with a last-gasp effort to end a lacklustre and uninspiring Three Lions’ performance.
Relieved Gareth Southgate raised his arms to the crowd in the 94th minute when a Kyle Walker cross found the right foot of Kane, whose volley saw the ball trickle over the line.
Captaining the side, and netting his 14th goal for his country in front of the home fans, made it a night at least Kane will remember, and one Southgate would prefer to forget.
The game had started promisingly, with Raheem Sterling putting in an early cross for Marcus Rashford, whose shot was blocked by Slovenia’s Shporer in the 3rd minute.
The Slovenians hit back in the 10th minute, when Ilicic caught out Jordan Henderson, who was relieved to see Joe Hart deflect the danger.
Kane forced a save from Slovenian keeper in the 14th minute, and Sterling fluffed chance in the 20th, but that saw an end to any proactive play from England, with perhaps the exception of Rashford who did make some progress.
A free kick just outside the area in the 34th gave England some hope, with Kyle Walker stepping up to put it over the bar. It was a strange decision and was one that will surely be questioned, given the other players available.
The second half started much as the first half ended, a total lack of midfield creativity from Sterling, and Oxlade-Chamberlain, who despite recent poor form was again trusted to start, only to be replaced by Jesse Lingard in the 64th minute.
Eric Dier was unsure and unsettled, looking lost without the thinking of partner Dele Alli, and with an equally poor Henderson supplying no ideas, leaving Slovenia able to read the game, which was by now lumbering and slow.
More reminiscent of Sunday League than world level, it was a game that saw its spectators finding their entertainment throwing paper aeroplanes around Wembley, and cheering on a pitch invader.
In a silly and fun gesture, the crowd demonstrated the lack confidence felt in the young team, and the level of excitement and expectation surrounding England’s challenge going into the finals in Russia next year.
No ‘plane’ sailing for Southgate
Speaking after the game, Southgate was asked about his side’s performance, saying “We were playing a team that have only conceded four goals in all of the competition and you saw why, they defended resolutely, and took yellow cards where they had to. But we stuck at it, and it’s no coincidence that games have been won with late goals.”
He was also asked about the performance of Joe Hart, who impressed in goal “He makes big saves at important times, and that’s where his experience comes through. We’ve got to get better but that’s tomorrow, tonight we’re in the World Cup Finals, and that’s fantastic.”
England now face Lithuania on Tuesday top of Group F, and under no pressure, and will be looking to regain momentum and put last night’s performance behind them.
Southgate will no doubt make changes for Sunday’s game, the most likely being the return of Dele Alli, who was suspended for Thursday’s game.
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