WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS
England’s Three Lions maintained their winning start to the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a comfortable victory over Albania in Tirana on Sunday evening.
Albania provided more of a challenge than hapless San Marino in England’s opening 5-0 win at Wembley but once they had survived an early scare when Myrto Uzuni missed a great chance for the side ranked 66th in the world, this was routine for Gareth Southgate’s side.
England captain Harry Kane lifted the mediocrity of an attritional first half on a slow surface when he scored his 33rd goal for his country, a superbly guided diving header from Luke Shaw’s cross seven minutes before the interval.
This set the platform for a more positive second-half display, Mason Mount adding a composed second in the 63rd minute after sustained England pressure saw Phil Foden’s effort turned on to the post by Albania keeper Etrit Berisha and Kane lifting a close-range shot over the top.
England stretched their unbeaten run in World Cup qualifiers to 23 games but now face their sternest test so far in this campaign as Poland and their master marksman Robert Lewandowski come to Wembley on Wednesday (19:45 BST).
Kane had been going through something of a drought by his own standards. His previous England goal came 500 days ago, in a Euro 2020 qualifier against Kosovo, and his header in Tirana ended a run of 496 minutes without scoring.
Kane’s class, however, remains permanent so it was no surprise that he was the man to break the deadlock after England had struggled to break down a resilient Albania defence, the beneficiary of a superb left-flank delivery from Shaw.
It was also a good moment for the recalled Shaw, whose impressive recent form for Manchester United merited his inclusion.
Southgate may well have his ideal Euro 2020 starting line-up fixed in his mind but Shaw, who has assisted goals in his last three England starts, is emerging as a genuine rival to Chelsea’s Ben Chilwell.
Georgia 1-2 Spain
Albania 0-2 England
Armenia 2-0 Iceland
Denmark 8-0 Moldova