Harry Kane Hits Late Winner vs. Croatia, England Advance in UEFA Nations League

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist INovember 18, 2018

England's striker Harry Kane passes the ball for England's midfielder Jesse Lingard to score their first goal during the international UEFA Nations League football match between England and Croatia at Wembley Stadium in London on November 18, 2018. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

Harry Kane scored a late winner for England in a 2-1 win over Croatia at Wembley Stadium on Sunday in both teams' final group match of the UEFA Nations League.

The Three Lions had the better chances of a goalless first half. Raheem Sterling saw a shot blocked by goalkeeper Lovre Kalinic, while Kane sliced a good chance wide at the far post when well placed.

Croatia took the lead on the hour mark through Andrej Kramaric. A quick break saw Nikola Vlasic send in a low cross for Kramaric, he took his time before firing a shot which hit Eric Dier and looped past Jordan Pickford in the England goal.

Substitute Jesse Lingard equalised for England on 78 minutes to set up a dramatic end to the match. Croatia failed to deal with a Joe Gomez throw into the penalty area, allowing Lingard the easiest of tap-ins.

Kane then sealed victory just seven minutes later. The England captain poked home Ben Chilwell's free-kick to send the Three Lions to the top of the group.


England Can't Rely on Harry Kane to Keep Saving Them

England showed their reliance on Kane yet again for their victory over Croatia. The captain produced the match-winning moment to end a recent goal drought at international level:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

747 - Harry Kane scored his first goal for England since netting against Colombia at the World Cup, ending a run of seven matches and 747 minutes without scoring. Timing. #ENGCRO https://t.co/5EFReBOlVy

The goal will have brought relief to the Tottenham striker. He came into the match without a goal in his last seven games for the Three Lions and missed two good chances to score in the first half.

The Tottenham striker had looked far from his best against Croatia. However, he was rewarded for his resilience and made his doubters look foolish, per Matt Law of the Daily Telegraph:

Matt Law @Matt_Law_DT

Anybody who doubts Harry Kane will always be made to look silly.

Yet England can't keep relying on Kane to come up with the goods. England need more from their attacking players if they are to maintain their upward trajectory.

Sterling and Marcus Rashford both caused Croatia problems with their pace and direct running. However, they were not clinical enough in front of goal, per Goal's Nizaar Kinsella:

Nizaar Kinsella @NizaarKinsella

Croatia have clawed their way back into this. England will be regretful of not exploiting their domination. Rashford and Sterling causing nightmares but not clinical enough, not Kane's best performance in general so far. #ENGCRO

Manager Gareth Southgate does have plenty of options to help Kane in attack. Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho enhanced his growing reputation against USA and saw more game time as a substitute against Croatia.

Bournemouth's Callum Wilson has also shown he can be a useful back-up to Kane, with a debut goal against the USA on Thursday.

Lingard's equaliser against Croatia means he now has two goals in two games for England, while Dele Alli is fit after some time out through injury and will be hoping he can get back to his best form.

Kane's winner means England will play in next summer's final, but they will need to improve their attacking threat if they are to have any chance of winning the tournament.


Delph a Better Option for England than Henderson

Manchester City's Fabian Delph was something of a surprise inclusion in England's starting XI. The 28-year-old came in for Jordan Henderson, who was ruled out with a hamstring injury, per James Pearce at the Liverpool Echo.

Sports journalist Mark Mann-Bryans highlighted Delph's lack of game time at Manchester City:

Mark Mann-Bryans @MarkyMBryans

Fabian Delph the surprise name in the England XI - has now started as many internationals in the last three days as he has Premier League games for Manchester City all season.

Yet the midfielder put in a performance that showed why he is a better option for England in midfield than Henderson. 

The 28-year-old was excellent in possession, producing some superb long passes to find both Rashford and Sterling.

Football.London's Oliver Harbord compared him to a former Barcelona legend:

Oliver Harbord @ojharbord

When did Fabian Delph become Iniesta?! 🤔#ENGCRO

Delph was dominant in midfield in the first half against quality opposition. He covered plenty of ground, linked well with Ross Barkley and Eric Dier and showed why Southgate has so much faith in him. 

Simon Hattenstone at the Guardian offered his view:

Simon Hattenstone @shattenstone

Is it me or is our Fabian Delph dominating Croatia and playing like a worldclass midfield general?#England

It was an impressive display from the Manchester City man, who was one of England's brightest players. His performance underlined just what he can bring to the national team and how he fully deserves his place in the set-up.


What's Next?

The result means England finish top and advance to the semi-finals of the competition which will be held in 2019. Croatia finish bottom of the group behind Spain and are relegated to League B of the Nations League.