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Tuesday 19 September 2017

Emotional Defoe hails group win

England 2 Lithuania 0
England’s Jermain Defoe celebrates scoring their first goal against Lithuania with Eric Dier and Adam Lallana at Wembley yesterday. Photo: REUTERS
England’s Jermain Defoe celebrates scoring their first goal against Lithuania with Eric Dier and Adam Lallana at Wembley yesterday. Photo: REUTERS

Jermain Defoe struggled to keep his emotions in check as he made his return to the England team after an absence of more than three years.

The Sunderland striker marked his Wembley return with the opening goal in England's 2-0 win over Lithuania in their World Cup qualifying Group F match.

"I enjoyed it, it's been a good week," said the 34-year-old, who led the team out alongside Bradley Lowery - the terminally ill five-year-old Sunderland fan with whom he has formed such a bond.

"It's hard to put into words really," Defoe added. "I had to keep my emotions (under control), obviously little Brad was with me.

"You can imagine how I felt doing that, it was special.

"Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling."

England boss Gareth Southgate, whose side top Group F with 13 points from five games, was not entirely satisfied with the performance.

"We'd have liked a bit more, but I think really only one team came to win the game and it's always difficult to break down a packed defence," he said. "I'm pleased for the two lads who have got the goals, a great story for Jermain and I felt Jamie added something to us."

Asked about the areas for improvement, Southgate said: "I think today just moving the ball a bit quicker, more runs in behind, and we've got individual players who will play better than they did today.

"We kept pushing, it's not as if we took our foot off the gas."

Southgate also had words of praise for his young centre-backs John Stones and MIchael Keane, in particular the latter whom he described as "excellent".

England goalkeeper Joe Hart, the captain for the afternoon, accepted the game would not live long in the memory.

"It wasn't pretty, but we got the goals we wanted," he said.

"I thought they were a better team than maybe they gave themselves credit for. We'd have loved to score five or six, but we didn't."

Asked if he had a taste for the armband now, a diplomatic Hart said: "Wayne Rooney's our captain. It was a proud moment to captain your country, but I know my place in the team."

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