Harry Kane scored twice, including a 91st- minute winner to secure a vital opening 2-1 win for Gareth Southgate’s side over a dogged and resilient Tunisia side.
England made a deserved breakthrough in the 11th minute, after a high-octane start, when Kane tucked home from close-range after Tunisian goalkeeper Mouez Hassan acrobatically kept out a John Stones’ header.
Despite England’s superiority throughout the first period, Tunisia drew level courtesy of a Ferjani Sassi penalty after half an hour that had been awarded when Kyle Walker was adjudged to have elbowed Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.
The Three Lions’ struggled to maintain the same intensity in the second half and it appeared that Southgate’s side would be made to pay for their profligacy. However England were patient, and in added time, Kane stepped up when it mattered most to nod home, losing his marker and converting from Harry Maguire’s flick-on from a corner, to sink the valiant Tunisians.
Captain Kane steps up
Before this fixture, Kane had not scored in a major tournament, but, after his all-important double, he becomes the first England player to score twice in a World Cup match since Gary Lineker against Cameroon in 1990.
Showing he is better on the receiving end of set pieces, the Tottenham marksman provides the main attacking outlet for England and his natural goal-scoring prowess will be an invaluable asset for Gareth Southgate, further into the tournament should England progress.
High-press put England in control
England started the first half with a noticeable high-press that discomforted their Tunisian counterparts. Had Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard not missed guilt-edged first half chances England could have accumulated a far more commanding lead.
Before Tunisia drew level, England repeatedly broke with pace at a nervy-looking defence, with Kieran Trippier’s presence on the wide right providing a particularly potent outlet that should have garnered more reward.
In the second period, despite a drop in intensity, England remained patient, stuck to the plan and continued to attempt slick, incisive passes in Tunisia’s half, eventually getting their reward.
Harry Maguire’s distribution impresses
Despite a couple of uneasy moments in possession during the first half, Leicester City centre-back Maguire, who now has six England caps, impressed with his industrious distribution and enterprising forward runs, particularly when his side were hunting for a winner.
Dele Alli fails to make his mark
Seen flexing his hamstring in the first period, leaving many thinking he would be off at half time, Alli was surprisingly kept on the field until the 80th minute. The Tottenham midfielder struggled to have his usual impact and was largely anonymous throughout. Southgate will be keen to ensure such a key player is 100% fit for the Panama game on Sunday.
VAR has an off day
Kane was repeatedly wrestled to the ground in the penalty box during England set pieces. The referee dismissed appeals but officials in the VAR booth should have intervened on the two occasions that were obvious penalties.
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