Belfast Telegraph

Kane saves England’s day but lack of sparkle frustrates fans

Lithuania 0 England 1

By Simon Peach

England’s final competitive match before the World Cup ended with frustration rather than a flourish, yet Gareth Southgate took the positives in Lithuania after in-form Harry Kane once again led from the front.

Aiming paper planes at the pitch gave fans more entertainment than the Three Lions against Slovenia on Thursday — a night when victory saw qualification for next summer’s finals in Russia secured with a game to spare.

Kane’s late goal gave England an underwhelming 1-0 win at Wembley and last night’s trip to Vilnius saw the same scorer secure the same result, despite the side ranked 120th in the world threatening to give the experimental visitors a bloody nose.

The 24-year-old’s first-half penalty proved enough for victory as the Three Lions finished Group F unbeaten, with fans applauding the team’s efforts.

“Well, pleased with some aspects of it,” Southgate said, having handed Harry Winks, Harry Maguire and Aaron Cresswell their first England starts.

“We obviously gave three full debuts and an opportunity to some players that we wanted to see. I think that also kept the motivation of the team high.

“In many aspects, we moved the ball quite well. I was very pleased with Harry Winks.

“For me, one of the big things when you play for England isn’t necessarily the opposition, it’s whether you can handle wearing an England shirt.

“I thought he did that in a really accomplished way. Looked confident, looked composed, tried to play forward when he could, so that was a real positive.

“We just lacked a bit of quality around the final third and it has been a familiar theme in this qualification campaign, really.

“The challenge is you play a packed defence who don’t even come out at 1-0 down. We have to find a way to combat that.”

Lithuania: Setkus, Andriuskevicius, Girdvainis, Zulpa, L Klimavicius, Borovskij, Slivka (Chvedukas, 90 mins), Verbickas, Novikovas, Sernas (Matulevicius, 76 mins), Cernych. Unused subs: Zubas, Freidgeimas, Kijanskas, Mikuckis, Silenas, Vaitkunas, Papsys, Spalvis, Valskis, Cerniauskas.

England: Butland, Keane, Stones, Maguire, Trippier, Winks, Henderson, Cresswell, Alli (Lingard, 81 mins), Kane, Rashford (Sturridge, 72 mins). Unused subs: Pickford, Forster, Smalling, Walker, Cahill, Dier, Livermore, Defoe, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling.

Man of the Match: Harry Winks

Match rating: 5/10

Referee: Orel Grinfeld (Israel)

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