Jamaica Observer / Volgograd , Russia (AFP) — Harry Kane grabbed a dramatic late winner for England yesterday, powering home a header in injury time of their World Cup opener after Belgium had earlier swept past Panama. Kane’s second goal of the game secured a 2-1 victory after it looked as if England had squandered their chance to take all three points after being rocked by a Tunsian equaliser which followed a bright start.
Menaced by flying insects under the floodlights in Volgograd, England raced out of the blocks and took an early lead in the Group G match through Kane.
But Gareth Southgate’s young English team squandered multiple chances, with Jesse Lingard particularly wasteful, and Tunisia made them pay when Ferjani Sassi scored from the penalty spot after Kyle Walker was adjudged to have fouled Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.
Despite enjoying the bulk of the possession in the second half, England created few clear-cut chances and looked as though they would be forced to settle for a share of the spoils.
But captain Kane had the last word, heading in a corner at the back post in the 91st minute.
“It’s massive,” said Kane. “I’m so proud of the lads. It’s tough. We played so well, especially in the first half, and we could have scored a few more.
“We kept going. It’s a World Cup, you go to the last second. I’m absolutely buzzing.”
Southgate meanwhile praised his side’s ability to dig out a victory at the death which was England’s first win in a World Cup opener since 2006.
“We recovered from a really harsh (penalty) decision and kept our composure, which pleased me,” Southgate told reporters.
“Even though the clock was running down, we stayed patient. Good teams score late goals, because if you dominate the ball like that, the opposition tire.”
Tunisia coach Nabil Maaloul was left to ponder what might have been as his side almost held England to a draw and instead was left paying tribute to two-goal Harry Kane.
“It was Kane who won this match for England,” Maaloul told reporters after the England captain’s 91st-minute winner had left some of his players in tears at the final whistle.
“It was him who was always there at the right time. He is the optimal striker,” he said after the obdurate north Africans, who lost their goalkeeper to injury in the 13th minute, went down 2-1.
“The spaces that were created by Kane were very scary to us,” said Maaloul, whose side’s reputation as solid defenders was put to a severe test as England created chance after chance in a dominant opening half-hour.
Kane put England ahead in the 11th minute but Ferjani Sassi’s penalty levelled matters 10 minutes before half-time from the penalty spot only for Tunisia’s hearts to be broken by Kane’s second goal in the dying moments.
“We were playing against a highly skilled and highly co-ordinated team in terms of their forward players.
“If we were to get a draw, it would have been an excellent result for us,” lamented Maaloul, who is in his second stint as Tunisia boss.
“But hopefully this will lead to higher levels of concentration in the coming games.”
Off the field, England fans were outnumbered by Tunisian supporters in Volgograd after fewer than 2,000 tickets for the match were sold in Britain.
The England supporters were given a warm welcome in the city formerly known as Stalingrad and were largely well-behaved although two fans were charged with public drunkenness after being detained on a train.