England 2 - 1 Croatia: Kane comes up with a winner to seal Nations League Finals place

Posted Monday, November 19, 2018 by PA

England 2 - 1 Croatia: Kane comes up with a winner to seal Nations League Finals place

Harry Kane ensured a year to cherish would end with a bang as England came from behind against World Cup semi-final foes Croatia to reach the inaugural Nations League Finals.

Just 130 days after breaking English hearts in Moscow, Zlatko Dalic’s men looked set to prove the scourge of the Three Lions once more as Andrej Kramaric’s deflected effort left them staring down the barrel of relegation.

But a stirring comeback from Gareth Southgate’s side brought a memorable year to a fitting conclusion, with substitute Jesse Lingard scoring and clearing off the line before captain Kane secured a late 2-1 win which sees them top Group A4 ahead of Spain.

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Don’t rule us out. 🙌

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Baddiel & Skinner’s ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’ rang around Wembley after a victory that condemned Croatia to relegation – the icing on the cake as England brought down the curtain on a year which saw them re-engage with the public and restore pride.

For a long time it had looked like this match would go the same way as Moscow. England were on top but failed to convert a glut of first-half chances, with Leicester flop Kramaric capitalising on poor defending before firing a shot in off Eric Dier.

Southgate’s side struggled to recover from that sucker punch, but Lingard turned home in the 78th minute to set up a grandstand finish.

The substitute stopped Domagoj Vida’s header on the line, with Kane turning home Ben Chilwell’s free-kick five minutes from time to send Wembley wild and secure England a shot at silverware in Portugal next summer.

‘Our England, Our Time’ read a banner which welcomed the sides on Sunday afternoon, when a nervy opening few minutes was followed by Croatia being pinned back through the hosts’ intensity and ingenuity.

Poor decision-making was letting them down, though, and Raheem Sterling was guilty of a poor pass to Marcus Rashford before failing to play him in at all, instead seeing his shot saved by Lovre Kalinic.

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Everything but the goal… 😬

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More chances soon went begging. Unmarked and off balance, Kane was unable to direct home at the far post when John Stones glanced a header into his path.

England were looking to open the scoring and surprise selection Fabian Delph, impressing in midfield, sent an exceptional ball to scampering Sterling, who was clattered by Kalinic in a clearance that only went as far as skipper Kane.

England 2 - 1 Croatia: Kane comes up with a winner to seal Nations League Finals place
Raheem Sterling and Lovre Kalinic challenge for the ball (Mike Egerton/PA)

The 25-year-old’s first-time strike was blocked by Tin Jedvaj, with the Croatia goalkeeper recovering to deny Kane again.

England were still keeping the visitors at arm’s length and knocking on the door, with Sime Vrsaljko getting back well to deny Rashford before Chilwell’s half-volley forced Kalinic into action once more.

Ross Barkley hit the side-netting with a volley but Croatia ended the opening period on top, with Ivan Perisic fizzing over from a Kramaric cut-back – a move that saw the ex-Leicester striker claim he was clipped in the box by Joe Gomez.

Half-time offered the chance to regroup and Rashford almost fed Sterling seven minutes after the restart, but every missed chance gave Croatia confidence – and their raucous fans had something to celebrate in the 57th minute.

Kramaric received a cut-back and was allowed to jink back and forth, before getting away an attempt that Dier’s block diverted into the top corner.

It was a goal that meant anything but victory would now see England relegated to the Nations League’s second tier.

Dele Alli, Jadon Sancho and Lingard came on to try and wake the side from its post-goal slumber, but the atmosphere was now as flat as the football.

There were barely any flickers of life until Gomez’s long throw caused mayhem 12 minutes from time.

Kalinic managed to get something on Kane’s prodded effort at the far post, but Lingard latched onto the loose ball to turn home from a yard out.

It nearly counted for nothing as Croatia defender Vida was allowed to head on goal, with goalscorer Lingard clearing off the line – a moment that England capitalised on in the 85th minute.

Chilwell’s free-kick from the left skipped off the turf and Kane was there to direct home from close range to secure a comeback that will live long in the memory.

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