Forwards lively as England dispatch Albania to maintain perfect start

Date published: Sunday 28th March 2021 6:55 - Steve Pearson


England made it two wins from two to start their World Cup qualifying campaign with a thoroughly professional performance in Albania.

England predictably took early control of the possession stakes. A tougher game than Thursday’s regulation victory over San Marino was expected. As such, the Three Lions were limited to opportunities from set pieces in the opening quarter of an hour.

Phil Foden’s delivery was on point from the left, allowing John Stones a half-chance to score after beating his marker from a corner.

His miss was almost punished moments later when a fast break saw Myrto Uzuni go through on goal.

The forward lacked composure at the critical moment, blazing over the bar from an opportunity that deserved better.

The pitch’s lush surface was not lending itself to a high-tempo passing display Gareth Southgate would’ve wished for. Patience, it seemed, would be the word of the day.

England were gifted a superb opportunity after being awarded a free-kick after Mason Mount was crunched on the edge of the box.

Harry Kane assumed the responsibility but fired his effort straight into Harry Maguire on the edge of the wall.

With the game meandering to half-time, England found a breakthrough from out of nowhere.

Luke Shaw whipped in a teasing cross after possession was won back high up the pitch. Kane was alert, stealing half a yard on his marker before glancing the ball inside the far post to make it 1-0.

One should’ve become two soon after the restart, but Kane could only divert the ball onto the crossbar from close range following excellent work down the left from Sterling.

Sterling again caused havoc soon into the second-half, breezing past his defender to tee up Foden.

The Man City playmaker wrong-footed Albania goalkeeperΒ Etrit Berisha with his shot, but the stopper adjusted his weight quickly to palm the ball to safety.

Albania’s stern resistance was then shattered by their own doing.

The lively Sterling intercepted a poor pass out from the back before Kane played the onrushing Mason Mount in down the left.

The in-form Chelsea midfielder never looked like missing, and duly tucked home England’s second of the match to put the tie beyond the hosts.

Kane and Sterling continued to pose a threat as the match wore on. The former was bizarrely booked when prodding wide from close range after a sliding tackle felled two Albanians in the process.

England saw out the remaining minutes to maintain their perfect start to qualifying ahead of their anticipated clash with Poland on Wednesday night.


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