ENGLAND 2, POLAND 1
Harry Maguire’s dramatic late winner against Poland at Wembley maintained England’s perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign with a third straight victory.
And the Manchester United player’s intervention helped spare the blushes of central defensive partner John Stones.
It was the Manchester City horrendous error that handed Poland a surprise equaliser as they looked set to earn an unlikely point until Maguire saved the day as England made it three straight wins in seven days after earlier wins against San Marino and Albania.
The post-match discussions were more about Stones’ lapse rather than the victory, though manager Gareth Southgate and Maguire both rallied behind the player.Embed from Getty Images
“John Stones managed to compose himself for the rest of the game and played a part in the winning goal,” said Southgate.
“You can fold in such moments, but he didn’t.”
Maguire added: “We are defenders and, when we make mistakes, they are scrutinised. He has had a brilliant year and a great camp.
“He made a little mistake but made up for it with a great header at the back post for my goal.
“I said keep going and we will get the win, and we managed that.”
Stones made his blunder just short of the hour when he was caught in possession by Brighton’s Jakub Moder.
Hr played a neat one-two before firing past goalkeeper Nick Pope for only the midfielder’s second international goal.
But with five minutes later came Maguire to the rescue with a stunning strike.
Stone headed a far-post corner back for Maguire the drive into the roof of the net from about eight yards.
Southgate was delighted with the character shown by his side.
He explained: “We were very good in the first half and in control of the game.
“Then to concede one like we did could have hit the team, but they stuck to it and recovered their composure and scored an important set-piece winner.”
Poland, expected to be England’s main rivals in their group, arrived at Wembley without injured striker Robert Lewandowski, the Bayern Munich man their most influential player. They also had three ruled out through Covid which on the face of it ought to have made England’s job easier.
Southgate made only one change from the win in Albania three days earlier as Ben Chilwell returned at left back in place of Manchester United’s Luke Shaw.
Manchester City’s Phil Foden had an early chance but headed well over.
The breakthrough came in the 18th minute when Barnsley central defender Michal Helik tripped Foden’s City team-mate Raheem Sterling.
Kane scored from the spot, his 34th international goal as he has now scored more penalties for his country than any other player, 10 as he nudged ahead of Frank Lampard who had nine.
England would have doubled their lead in the opening period but for a great save by former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to deny Kane.
Stones’ blunder offered Paulo Sousa’s Poland an unexpected route back into the game before Maguire was the unlikely hero as England took a giant step towards the finals in Qatar with his third international goal.