Hat-trick hero Harry Kane puts England on brink of World Cup finals

Manager Gareth Southgate praises striker's return to form against Albania

Gareth Southgate heaped praised on hat-trick hero Harry Kane after England moved to the brink of World Cup qualification with an impressive 5-0 victory against Albania.

The unbeaten road to Qatar continued on Friday as a sell-out Wembley crowd witnessed a ruthless first-half display in the final home match of a memorable year.

Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson goals complemented a perfect hat-trick from captain Kane, who followed a header with a left-footed strike and right-footed stoppage-time scissor kick.

It was quite the performance given the skipper’s recent struggles and the result means England only need to avoid defeat in San Marino, the world’s lowest ranked side, to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

“Form is always temporary,” Southgate said of Kane. “What pleased me most was his all-round performance.

“We know he’s going to score goals but I really liked the way he was aggressive in his hold-up play.

“He was running in behind and his link play was really on song and that was helped as well by good movement around him."

Kane moved on to a record 39 competitive goals for England with his hat-trick and level in the all-time goalscoring rankings with the late Jimmy Greaves on 44.

The skipper’s performance epitomised the kind of “edge” that Southgate felt was missing in last month’s draw 1-1 draw with Hungary.

“I don’t think we hit the level of performance last time out that we that we should,” said the Three Lions boss.

“We were very clear on the specifics as to why that was.

“I thought tonight we were in the end too athletic, strong (for them) and our quality with the ball in the first half, bar two or three areas which could have been more costly.

“But bar that I thought the first-half performance was a really very good football, very composed playing through the pressure of the opponent, very creative.

“In the final third, we did create more chances than we scored as well.

“Second half difficult to sustain that because so much adrenaline and momentum in the first half and very often you get a flatter feel.

“I think the crowd were fabulous tonight, and it’s great that we’ve sent them home having seen the five goals in the attacking play that we showed.”

It took Southgate's side only nine minutes to take the lead, with Maguire heading in a free kick from Reece James. The Manchester United defender celebrated by cupping his ears to the crowd as he slid across the turf, in an apparent signal to critics.

Another header, the first of Kane's goals, extended the lead in the 18th. England broke down the left led by James before a combination between Phil Foden and Henderson, who provided the cross for Kane.

Henderson then got his first England goal at Wembley, with an assist from Kane before he skipped past two defenders and shot into the net.

Raheem Sterling was the provider for Kane's second in the 33rd, slipping a pass into his path before the ball was lifted past goalkeeper Thomas Strakosha.

And it was Foden's corner that Kane met in first-half stoppage time with the scissor kick to wrap up the win that allowed England to ease off after the break.

“Whenever I get chances I feel I’m going to score and there was quite a few out there," Kane said. “I could have had six on another night.”

Meanwhile, Albania counterpart Edoardo Reja had no complaints about the result at Wembley

“We have to compliment England for a good performance,” he said. “They were very fired up, they were determined.

“When you leave spaces for teams like England, you’re going to concede goals.”

Updated: November 13th 2021, 4:27 AM