Thursday, 5 October 2017

England seal World Cup place with late Harry Kane goal vs Slovenia

England claimed their place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia courtesy of a late Harry Kane goal against Slovenia on Thursday night, while a 10-man Slovakia were beaten 1-0 by Scotland. The result, in front of a paltry crowd at Wembley, leaves Gareth Southgate's men six points ahead of the Scots in second place with only one more qualifying game to play. With Harry Kane captaining England, Southgate gave starts to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Marcus Rashford on the wings, with Raheem Sterling operating in the No. 10 role. And it was the City midfielder who looked dangerous early on as he burst past his markers and put in a low cross that was cleared. Slovenia began to get going and Josip Ilicic was unlucky not to win a penalty when he beat the onrushing Joe Hart to the ball and went down, but the referee's whistle did not blow. On 13 minutes, England tested Slovenia keeper Jan Oblak as Kane found some space and fired a low shot which was gathered well by the Atletico Madrid star. Oblak was then called into action again as Rashford's cross almost caught him out of position. But Slovenia were also probing and a wonderful cross from Ilicic should have been pounced on by Roman Bezjak, but the striker missed his kick without testing Hart. For all England's efforts, they did not look like opening the scoring until the 26th minute when Jordan Henderson found some space in the box and drew a fine save from Oblak low down to his left. A free kick brought England's next chance as Rene Krhin brought down Sterling outside the box. But Kyle Walker, surprisingly stepping up after Kane had earlier hit one into the wall, blazed over from 25 yards. The ball was in the back of the net from a Kane header after a corner, but the whistle had already been blown for a foul by Gary Cahill in the box. Just before half-time Miha Mevlja went into the book for bringing down the dangerous Rashford on a break. The Manchester United teenager took the free kick himself and drew a save from Oblak after almost catching him out with a shot from a tight angle towards the near post. In the second period, Bojan Jokic's header across goal was fumbled by Hart but the West Ham loanee held on. England looked unable to get themselves into the game until Sterling broke to outnumber the Slovenia defence and freed Rashford down the left, but the winger's lob over Oblak was cleared before it reached the net. Oxlade-Chamberlain came off for Jesse Lingard and England's fans finally found their voice in the final 30 minutes -- though that was more to do with paper planes in the stands than anything happening on the pitch. Yet they almost had something to really cheer about as a low cross was cleared out to Sterling on the edge of the box, only for his shot to be blocked brilliantly by Bostjan Cesar. Riding high on confidence, Sterling had another effort blocked by Cesar before Kane drilled the rebound wide of the far post. On 74 minutes, Ilicic reminded the England defence that he was still a threat as he almost went through after controlling a lobbed ball over the top, but John Stones came across well to cover. Kane slipped a ball through for Lingard in the final 10 minutes but the Man United midfielder couldn't control it to get a shot away. And England almost went behind at the last as Tim Matavz broke through the defence but was beaten to the ball by the outrushing Hart, who then made a great block from a follow up effort after being hit on the head by Cahill's boot. Defender Michael Keane came on for Sterling as England shut up shop but there was still time for the home side to claim all three points. In the 94th minute, Kyle Walker's low cross wasn't dealt with and Kane, quiet all night, prodded home his 14th goal in his last nine games for club and country to seal England's place at Russia 2018 with a win.

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