Midfielder Declan Rice on the ball for England in Tirana
Bogged down at times by a very heavy pitch, England maintained their focus to earn a second World Cup qualifying win in the space of a week. This was an efficient 7/10 performance, capped by goals from Harry Kane (a wonderful header from a peachy Luke Shaw cross) and Mason Mount.
Albania, ranked 66th in the world, posed much more of a physical threat than San Marino, but Gareth Southgate’s team controlled possession and the flow of the game. The lack of a crowd almost certainly helped England to subdue their opponents, but still, this was a banana skin comfortably dodged.
22 – In the 20 International caps Harry Kane has earned in away matches for England, he has had a direct hand in 22 goals, netting 13 times and delivering nine assists. Return. pic.twitter.com/d3Ftibu2gM
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 28, 2021
Kane looked hungry and sharp. People may moan that he gets favourable treatment because he is England’s foremost player, but I think he knows he has to fight for his place in this young team, which is more than you can say about some England captains past who got too comfortable knowing they would never be dropped.
There were positives other than Kane. Mount impressed again, as did Shaw, Declan Rice and Phil Foden. Nick Pope earned another clean sheet, his sixth in six starts. That’s a new record for England but the Burnley keeper hasn’t been properly tested yet. There was probably no need for Kalvin Phillips to sit alongside Rice, not against deep-lying opponents, but that’s a minor quibble.
Poland and Robert Lewandowski come to Wembley on Wednesday. The Poles are clearly better than Albania but I think Southgate’s promising team will move up a gear or two and make it three wins from three, and I (perhaps foolishly) think Lewandowski will be kept quiet.
Man of the match: Harry Kane (England).