England vs Lithuania match report: Harry Kane fires in first Three Lions goal just 78 seconds into debut to put icing on the cake

England 4 Lithuania 0

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The Independent Football

In the mother of all breakthrough seasons, he required just 78 seconds to familiarise himself with the demands of international football and, having done so, Harry Kane simply went back to doing what it is he does best.

Scoring goals is what Kane does, whether that happens to be against Chelsea or Arsenal or Leicester City or, as it was tonight, the nation ranked 94 in the world by Fifa. This really was no big deal for Kane, but for a Wembley crowd that had welcomed him on as a second half substitute like a favourite son, the Spurs striker’s first international goal was a moment to cherish.

The goal was classic Kane, materialising unmarked in a promising position and finishing like a man who has hundreds rather than just dozens of games as a professional footballer. Float a back post cross in his direction 78 seconds into his England debut, against a tiring but determined Baltic state, and you can be sure of one thing: Kane will be ready.

To borrow the phrase from the modern lexicon, he seems to have been born ready; a man permanently in the right frame of mind to take life by the lapels - and last night was no different.

Sure, England were already 3-0 up and coasting to their seventh straight victory after the summer’s World Cup finals. They would have won whether or not Kane had directed his downward header past the goalkeeper Giedrius Arlauskis, but for a goalscorer it is the taking of the chance that matters. On the night that Wayne Rooney went to 47 goals, and within two of Sir Bobby Charlton’s record, so Kane started his pursuit of Rooney.

This was Kane’s night, even if he played just a small part of it. The stand-out player of the game was Danny Welbeck, the man whose place is under greatest threat from the Spurs striker. Welbeck’s strong running and ability to open up the spaces behind a determined but limited defence is invaluable on nights like these.

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Wayne Rooney celebrates his 47th England goal

Welbeck injured himself late on in the game and will not play against Italy in Turin on Tuesday. Neither will Raheem Sterling who, Hodgson has agreed, will return to Liverpool to have an injection in his toe to deal with a problem that has affected him this season. Leighton Baines and James Milner will also return to their clubs over the weekend with Ryan Bertrand the only one joining up.

While it will be a diminished England team that land in Turin on Monday the bigger picture is good for Hodgson. The march to Euro 2016 continues with ease: England have won all five qualifying matches, averaging three goals a game and have conceded just once.

England had started well by getting the ball forward quickly at the first opportunity, never more so than in the fourth minute when Fabian Delph looped a ball over the Lithuania defence and Rooney decided to shoot at the near corner rather than across Arlauskis.  He struck the inside of the post that time but even then it felt like a goal was close.

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Danny Welbeck nodded in the second on the stroke of half-time

Welbeck’s power and running down the right, and the liveliness of Delph in midfield caught Lithuania cold and the away team were a goal behind within six minutes. This time it was Welbeck cutting in from the right channel who had a shot and when the ball popped up off the goalkeeper Arlauskis it was the England captain who headed it in.

The goal had been a good move, encompassing Michael Carrick and Raheem Sterling before Welbeck embarked on his run and, in those early stages, England looked liberated from the usual cautiousness. Nevertheless, Lithuania were prepared to run and shut down their opponents and while at times their tackling will have caused shudder at certain Premier League clubs, it was effective.

The away team never ceded large areas of the pitch to England as is so often the case when the lower-ranked teams play at Wembley but instead they backed themselves to get close to the home side’s players and challenge them to pass the ball through. Generally, speaking Hodgson’s team failed to do that in the mid-stages of the first half and the game slipped away from them.

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Sterling has also pulled out with injury

There were chances, such as a nicely judged header by Rooney from Welbeck’s cross that looped over Arlauskis and clipped his bar. Jordan Henderson snatched at a shot and struck it wide when the opening had been hard-won on 24 minutes. Then Lithuania forced their way into the game and created a chance on 33 minutes when the left-back Vytautus Andriuskevicius crossed and Phil Jones only just got there ahead of Deivydas Matulevicius.

There were fewer problems after that. A penalty appeal went against Welbeck. Then, on 44 minutes, England caught out Lithuania with their second short corner of the half. The ball was worked to Henderson and his driven cross was headed by Welbeck, clipped captain Tadas Kijanskas and went in.

The second goal reduced the resolve in Lithuania and England’s start to the second half was an assortment of chances that really should have been buried. Delph struck a bouncing volley from Rooney’s cross that was very well saved by Arlauskis. Then the Lithuania goalkeeper stopped one hit venomously inside his other post by Welbeck.

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Harry Kane heads home his first England goal just 78 seconds after coming on to make his debut

There was a curious moment just before the third goal when Welbeck looked to have won a certain penalty when he ran past Kijanskas and went down. The Czech referee Pavel Kralovec waved play on to some astonishment but the replays showed only the faintest of brushes between knee and thigh and no contact between feet.

Moments later Sterling scored his first England goal, running to the near post to meet Rooney’s ball from the right. But that was only the warm-up act to the main event of the night. He finally rose from his seat around 70 minutes and had to wait some time to come on eventually for Rooney, but when Kane did it took him considerably less than two minutes to score.

Out on the left, Sterling worked the space well and struck a nice cross to the back post where Kane had arrived unmarked and ready. He headed the ball downward and in - and the night had its most memorable moment. Another small challenge overcome for the man of the moment, and you would not bet against him doing it again in Turin on Tuesday

England (4-3-3): Hart; Clyne, Jones, Cahill, Baines; Henderson (Barkley 71), Carrick, Delph; Sterling, Rooney (Kane 71), Welbeck (Walcott 76).

Lithuania (4-5-1): Arlauskis; Freidgeimas, Zaliukas, Kijanskas, Andriuskevicius (Slavickas 83); Cernych, Chvedukas, Zulpa, Mikuckis (Stankevicius 67), Mikoliunas (Kazlauskas 88); Matulevicius

Referee: P Kralovec (Czech Republic).

Man of the match; Welbeck

Rating: 6

Att: 83,671

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