LONDON – Presented with a golden boot before kickoff, Harry Kane's golden touch continued for England on Sunday as he struck a record-extending 55th goal for his country.
The Tottenham striker had already surpassed Wayne Rooney as the Three Lions' outright leading scorer with his penalty in Thursday's 2-1 win against Italy in Naples.
Back at Wembley, he got the chance to celebrate in front of his home fans with another goal in England’s 2-0 win against Ukraine in European Championship qualifying.
“It has been crazy over the last few days," Kane said. “My dad and brother were in Naples so I shared that moment with them. I had my wife and kids here today and those are memories that will always stay with me.”
The England captain struck in the 37th minute, converting Bukayo Saka’s cross at the far post.
Saka deservedly got on the scoresheet himself three minutes later when turning on the edge of the area and curling a shot into the top corner.
With that double strike England effectively secured the victory and ensured a 100% start to qualifying for Euro 2024 in what has been an impressive response to the disappointment of being eliminated from last year’s World Cup at the quarterfinal stage.
“It shows the type of team we are. We were all disappointed after the World Cup but the sign of a good team is to come back,” Kane said. “We are at the bottom of the hill again, but we’ve put in two great performances and it shows the mentality of the team.”
Kane, whose penalty miss in the 2-1 loss to France proved so costly in Qatar, has also proven he is not suffering a hangover from one of the most painful moments of his career.
While he is still waiting to win his first trophy for club or country, the personal honors continue to come.
In February he overtook the late Jimmy Greaves as Tottenham’s all-time leading scorer. In international soccer, he equaled Rooney’s England total at the World Cup before setting a new record against Italy.
The English Football Association marked that achievement before kickoff against Ukraine when its chair, Debbie Hewitt, presented Kane with a commemorative golden boot. For the match, Kane also wore Nike boots with a gold swoosh on the side.
“He is somebody that I think it would be easy for us to get drawn into not challenging,” England coach Gareth Southgate said. "But we've got to challenge him as well. The individual accolades are well deserved and are amazing. But he wants to be part of a team that is successful.
“That's the drive with England, for us to achieve that. He will be just as happy that we've got the six points and got ourselves in a good position in the group as getting the two goals this week as well.”
Kane's hunger to further extend his record was immediately evident as he went in search of more goals.
There was an early penalty claim when he hit the ground in the box and then an unusual air shot when just a couple of meters out from goal.
He didn’t have to wait long, however, for his latest strike in England colors. Drifting to the far post, he was perfectly placed to turn in Saka’s cross for one of the easiest goals he is ever likely to score.
The same cannot be said of Saka’s effort. First the Arsenal forward showcased his control when spinning with the ball at his feet to leave Mykola Matviyenko trailing. Then he looked up before picking out the top corner of Anatoliy Trubin’s goal.
“It is a top-level finish," Southgate said. "That is the ruthless part he has added to his game in the last 18 months or so. There were times you weren’t sure he was going to finish but now he has that confidence in front of goal.”
Ukraine was playing for the first time in six months and never looked like finding a way back into the game after conceding twice in quick succession. Yet it was cheered on throughout by an away contingent of around 4,200 fans.
The FA had invited more than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees to the match, as well as the families hosting them under the U.K. government’s Homes for Ukraine Scheme.
It is estimated that more than 150,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the U.K. since the war with Russia began last year.
Ahead of kickoff Ukraine’s fans sang along to a stirring rendition of the country’s national anthem, with one corner of Wembley awash with the blue and yellow colors of its flag.
Despite being heavily outnumbered inside a crowd of around 85,000, the away supporters made sure they were heard as they chanted and sang for their team.
“It was an atmosphere like no other international game I have ever experienced," Ukraine coach Ruslan Rotan said.
It was Kane who got England’s fans out of their seats, as he continues to set new standards in front of goal.
JACK LESLIE HONORED
The family of Jack Leslie, the first Black player to receive an England call-up in 1925, was presented with a posthumous honorary cap ahead of the game.
The Plymouth inside left was deselected after facing adversity because of his skin color and never played for his country.
James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson
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