ENGLAND 3, ITALY 1
Harry Kane’s double and a strike from Marcus Rashford booked England’s place in the finals of Euro 24 with two group games to spare.
It was a night to savour as England completed a double over Italy in the qualifiers as they avenged the loss to them on penalties in the final of the delayed Euro 2020.
Gareth Southgate’s side had to show character, which they displayed in spades after they fell behind early in the game to a goal from ex-West Ham striker Gianluca Scamacca.
Their big players stepped up to the plate as Kane’s brace saw him beat Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of England goals at Wembley while Rashford also put his disappointing club form behind him.
Kane has now scored 22 goals and provided eight assists in 19 Euro qualifiers.
He had also netted 11 doubles for England with only Nat Lofthouse ahead of him with 12.
Again Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham produced another masterful display as he played a prominent role in England’s first two goals.
It was a measure of this win that this was Italy’s first loss in an away Euro qualifier since 2006, a run of 22 games. Had they remained unbeaten, they would have smashed Romania’s record set between 1991-2007.
England’s record in qualifiers is equally impressive as they have lost only one of their last 63 for World Cups or Euros.
Kane said: “Qualifying is never easy. Sometimes we are just expected to go to the big tournaments, but we have seen in the past it is not as easy as it looks.
“I feel like sometimes we make qualifying look easy, so credit to the boys because it’s not. We’ve had one of the toughest groups, you’ve seen over recent years some big nations not going to major tournaments, so to do it [qualify] with two games to spare just shows the path we are on.
“We went 1-0 behind and stayed calm. We knew we could get the winner and we have done it.
“We have made it [Wembley] a real fortress over the years. We want to repay our fans with victories, and we have done that today.Embed from Getty Images
“We’ve beaten big nations quite consistently over the last few years. To win in Italy is one thing, but to back it up here too, with the performance, 3-1, comfortable for us, I think we showed a real maturity out there.
“We won’t get carried away. Enjoy the next camp, two more games to work together. Then these tournaments come around quick. Before we know it, we’ll be in March and on the eve of the next tournament.”
And of breaking Sir Bobby’s record, Kane said: “I love playing here at Wembley. I love playing for England full stop. To do it here at home is always special, perform in front of our fans, to wear the badge, to lead the boys out, and of course to score as well is one of the best feelings ever.
“I enjoy the records, but we go onto the next one and see how far we can go. This group wants to keep pushing standards. Now we will have to see how far we go next summer.”
Southgate made 11 changes from the side that edged past Australia in last Friday’s friendly.
Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips started ahead of Jordan Henderson while Kane returned and captained the Three Lions. Bellingham and Rashford also came in with Harry Maguire and John Stones starting in defence.
They were among six players from the Manchester clubs in the starting line-up.
Napoli captain Giovanni Di Lorenzo started for Italy with former Manchester United defender Matteo Darmian on the bench.
At 34, Giacomo Bonaventura became the oldest player to score his first Italy goal in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Malta, but it was not enough for him to retain his place in the starting line-up.
There was a period of silence pre-match in memory of the two Swedish nationals murdered yesterday in a terrorist attack before their Euro qualifier in Belgium as well as those in the Israel and Palestine conflict.
Phillips had to tread a careful line after being booked in the ninth minute and could ill afford another rash challenge.
Rashford had the first goal attempt of the match as his 30-yard free kick dipped narrowly over the bar.
But England were soon silenced as Italy snatched a 15th minute lead.
A sweeping move from left to right ended with Giovanni Di Lorenzo firing over a low cross which Scamacca fired into the roof of the net from six yards.
Suddenly there was a spring in the step if the visitors and Atalanta forward Scamacca went close with a shot on the turn which flew not far wide.
England were back on level terms after half an hour through a Kane penalty.
Jude Bellingham was brought down by Di Lorenzo, but the VAR check took almost two minutes before French referee Clement Turpin’s decision was upheld.
Kane stepped up to send goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way from the spot for his 60th goal for England and draw level with Sir Bobby Charlton for goals at Wembley with 23.
Kane has contributed to goals in his last six games in Euro qualifiers (6 goals, 2 assists).
Rashford had a chance to put England ahead shortly before the break, but his fierce shot was parried by Donnarumma and flew off the keeper for a corner.
Italy also had a chance to regain the lead when Tottenham’s Destiny Udogia’s low shot brought a decent save from Jordan Pickford.
England went ahead in the 57th minute with Bellingham again pivotal as he won a slide tackle on the edge of his own box and burst down the centre of the field before slipping a pass to Rashford who cut in from the left before firing low past Donnarumma from just inside the box, his 17th goal for England.
Southgate’s first change just after the hour saw Stones replaced by Crystal Palace’s Mark Guehi, soon followed by a second as Phillips made way for Henderson.
Foden had a chance to make it 3-1, but Donnarumma made a smart stop low to his left.
England sealed victory with 13 minutes left when Kane struck again as he broke from half-way as he ran on to Guehi’s forward pass and evaded a couple of pursuers before lifting the ball over Donnarumma for his 61st international goal to smash Sir Bobby’s record for Wembley goals.
Bellingham, so influential in midfield, was replaced by Jack Grealish with five minutes left as he was given a well-deserved rest.