Harry-Buk spell leaves Ukraine stupefied
Harry Kane made it seven goalscoring Euro qualification (ECQ) home matches in eight, as he opened England’s account in a 2-0 victory over Ukraine at Wembley, for the Three Lions’ eleventh successive ECQ home win in a run going back to September 2011.
A dramatic fall to the floor in the penalty box from England’s all-time record goalscorer Kane just about summed up the Three Lions’ start to this Euro 2024 qualification battle. Slow and lethargic following Thursday night’s impressive win over Italy in Naples, it took England almost 25 minutes to carve out a clear sighting of goal, and despite it falling to the man the hosts wanted it to, Kane’s complete air-shot from just six yards let Ukraine off the hook.
But the visitors’ reprieve was short-lived, and having only become England’s record scorer on Thursday, Kane swiftly added to his 54-goal tally for the Euro 2020 runners up. He was quickest to react to Bukayo Saka’s cross at the back post, and the provider of the opener turned goalscorer just three minutes later, as Saka stepped inside off the right and curled home a sumptuous effort into the top corner, doubling England’s advantage heading into the break.
If Ukraine were to avoid opening a sixth straight qualification campaign for any major tournament with defeat, they needed a minor miracle after the break. But when visiting boss Ruslan Rotan elected to withdraw one of his big-hitters in Mykhailo Mudryk shortly after the hour mark, the final result had an inevitable feel long before FT. In truth, England probably felt that too, and almost seemed to lend a sympathetic hand to Ukraine, as they took their foot off the gas in a more sedate second period.
With no Premier League football for another six days, England boss Gareth Southgate didn’t shuffle his pack until 10 minutes from time, introducing Ivan Toney to make his England bow. There was to be no fairytale debut goal for Toney, but it was still a hugely satisfying end to England’s three-match winless home run, as the Three Lions sauntered to a maximum return from their opening duo of ECQ games.