Kane’s ‘massive’ brace ensures England don’t pay penalty in Volgograd clash
England 2 Tunisia 1
England captain Harry Kane hailed their 2-1 victory over Tunisia as "massive" after he headed home his second goal in stoppage time in their opening World Cup Group G match last night.
England had made a superb start at the Volgograd Arena when Kane lashed the home from close range in the 11th minute, but the lead lasted 24 minutes before Tunisia drew level from the penalty spot through Ferjani Sassi.
After struggling to break down the resilient north Africans, England finally found a way through the massed defensive ranks when Kane swivelled to head home in added time.
"It's massive. I am so proud of the lads. We kept going. We spoke a lot about togetherness and we've got a great bond together," Kane said.
"There were a lot of decisions against us and maybe there was a bit of justice at the end. That's the World Cup. It's tough."
After Belgium thrashed Panama 3-0 in the other Group G game yesterday, the pressure was on England to deliver only their second win in their last nine games at World Cups.
"It's a massive boost, a massive bonus, we kept going. We kept fighting and got the late goal and a big win," England midfielder Jordan Henderson said.
"I felt positive at 1-1, the pace did drop off a bit. We had to keep creating chances, we didn't play as well second half but they defended deep. Winning the first game is always massive."
England manager Gareth Southgate was delighted with his team.
"I think we deserved the win," he said.
"We had total control of the game in the second half and we stayed patient. I am really pleased and even if we had drawn the game I would have been really proud of the performance."
Southgate could hardly have wished for a better start to this Group G clash in Volgograd, where his side capped a start displaying skill, verve and energy with an early goal from their captain.
Yet the officials managed to topple the insects as England's biggest irritant as Sassi netted from a controversially awarded penalty that somehow was not followed up by spot-kicks at the other end as the video assistant referees ignored the manhandling of Kane.
But what Southgate's men lack in experience they make up for in spirit, with Tottenham striker Kane nodding home at the far post to clinch a dramatic late victory which sent their hardy travelling support wild.
It is the first time England have opened a major tournament with a win since 2006 but it did not need to be this hard given Kane directed home an 11th-minute opener.
Bold, direct and hungry in attack, Southgate's men were then hit by a sucker-punch as referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the spot after Kyle Walker swung an arm in the box.
Sassi fired home and frustration grew as the VAR did not interject after Kane was dragged to the deck. He also failed to do so from a similar incident at the start of the second period.
Jesse Lingard hit the post in between those controversial incidents but chances dried up in a testing second half before Kane's stoppage-time heroics won it for England.
Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young failed with free-kicks as England displayed a worrying lack of creativity, but they made up for it with their never-say-die attitude at the death.
Maguire nodded on a corner to the far post and Kane was there to glance home, to the delight of all connected to England.