Harry Kane scored a dramatic injury-time winner as England beat Tunisia 2-1 in their World Cup opener in Volgograd on Monday evening.
The England captain, who had volleyed his side into an early lead, headed home after Harry Maguire had flicked on a Kieran Tripper corner in the 91st minute to secure a vital three points in their bid to qualify from Group G.
A controversial penalty looked to have denied them the win when Kyle Walker was harshly penalised for an elbow on Fakhreddine Ben Youssef 10 minutes before half-time and Ferjani Sassi coolly slotted home.
But Kane’s late intervention means Gareth Southgate’s young side move level with Belgium – who beat Panama 3-0 earlier in the day – at the top of the group and start their World Cup campaign in positive fashion.
Tunisia: Mouez Hassen (7), S Ben Youssef (7), Meriah (6), Bronn (7), Maaloul (6), F Ben Youssef (6), Badri (7), Sassi (7), Skhiri (6), Khazri (7), Sliti (7)
Subs: Ben Mustapha (6), Ben Amor (6), Khalifa (n/a)
England: Pickford (7), Walker (6), Stones (7), Maguire (8), Lingard (8), Henderson (7), Trippier (9), Young (6), Alli (6), Sterling (6), Kane (8).
Subs: Rashford (6), Loftus-Cheek (6), Dier (n/a)
Man of the match: Kieran Trippier
England’s rampant start was capped by a sharp volleyed goal from their captain in the 11th minute. Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen brilliantly palmed away John Stones’ header from Ashley Young’s corner, but Kane was alert to smash home from close range.
By the time Hassen left the field in tears on 15 minutes, he had already made three excellent saves – including the third-minute outstretched foot which denied Jesse Lingard and saw the goalkeeper pick up the injury that would ultimately end his night early.
Lingard, Jordan Henderson and Maguire wasted opportunities as England remained in total control until the 35th minute when Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the penalty spot to allow Tunisia back into the game.
Walker’s trailing arm, which caught Ben Youssef in the face as the duo challenged for a high cross, was judged to be a foul and after the VAR opted not to overturn the call, Sassi brilliantly slotted home, despite Jordan Pickford diving the right way.
Moments later, England were denied a penalty of their own when Sassi wrestled with Kane in the area, though Stones miskicked a simple chance from eight yards when the ball broke to him seconds later – and there was still time for Lingard to prod a Kieran Trippier through-ball onto the outside of the post before an incident-packed first half ended.
England lined up as expected with Jordan Pickford in goal, Ashley Young preferred to Danny Rose and Jordan Henderson chosen ahead of Eric Dier in midfield. Nine World Cup debutants were in Gareth Southgate’s starting XI. For Tunisia, Sunderland midfielder Wahbi Khazri, who spent last season on loan at Rennes in France was named as captain to play behind lone striker Naim Sliti.
The referee did not penalise a further hold on Kane by Yassine Meriah early in a second half which lacked the intensity of the first and was devoid of clear opportunities, despite the introductions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for the ineffective Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli.
Indeed, there was only one genuine chance in the second half and Kane was alert to convert it, losing his marker and nodding home from three yards at the back post to sink the valiant Tunisians and spark England’s World Cup campaign into life.
- England scored more than once for the first time in 10 World Cup matches, since a 2-2 draw against Sweden in 2006.
- Tunisia are winless in their last 12 World Cup matches (D4 L8).
- England are unbeaten in their seven meetings with African nations in the World Cup (W4 D3 L0).
- England had six shots on target in the first half, their most in the opening 45 minutes of a World Cup match since the 1966 semi-final against Portugal.
- Tunisia scored with their only shot on target in this match, their 35th-minute penalty.
- England’s Kieran Trippier created six goalscoring opportunities tonight, more than any other player has managed so far in the 2018 World Cup.
- Harry Kane became the first England player to score twice in a World Cup match since Gary Lineker against Cameroon in 1990.
Man of the Match – Kieran Trippier
This was only the Tottenham full-back’s eighth appearance in an England shirt, but he performed like a seasoned professional and was England’s most creative outlet throughout. His set-piece deliveries caused Tunisia problems all night – the winning goal was the perfect example of that – but his running as a right wing-back was fundamental to the success of Southgate’s system.
England continue their quest for qualification from Group G when they travel to Nizhny Novgorod to face Panama on Sunday lunchtime (1pm BST kick-off). Tunisia play Belgium a day earlier in Moscow, also at 1pm BST.