TIRANA, Albania (AP) — If captain Harry Kane is the first name on England’s team sheet, then blossoming midfielder Mason Mount isn’t too far behind.
Both players highlighted their importance to the national team by scoring the goals in England’s 2-0 win over Albania in World Cup qualifying on Sunday, which added to the 5-0 victory over San Marino in midweek that opened the Group I campaign.
Kane’s diving header from Luke Shaw’s cross in the 38th minute was the striker’s 33rd goal at international level, leaving the 27-year-old Tottenham star just 20 off the all-time record held by Wayne Rooney. Kane hadn’t scored for England in 16 months — since before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kane has added a more creative aspect to his game this season at club level, and that was on show for the second goal in the 63rd when he fed Mount with a neat pass to his left.
The Chelsea midfielder bore down on goal and lifted his angled finish over goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
Mount started a seventh straight game for England, having also established himself as a regular at Chelsea this season — under both Frank Lampard, who was fired in January, and his replacement Thomas Tuchel.
England coach Gareth Southgate has fierce competition for the midfield and attacking places, but Mount appears to be guaranteed to feature in the team heading into the European Championship.
“He is a very good player but I was saying that in the autumn,” Southgate said of Mount. “I suppose now Thomas Tuchel picks him, probably everyone will agree. When it was Frank, it didn’t count for some reason.
“He is an exceptional player. He finds space intelligently, he manipulates the ball very well, he creates chances and scores goals.”
Southgate decided to again play two holding midfielders — this time Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips — despite the limited opposition, in an approach that has its critics. It did mean England was hardly troubled in defense, where Shaw and John Stones started after long absences from the squad, although England struggled to produce any free-flowing football until Kane’s goal.
Some of that might be put down to the slow nature of the pitch, with the long grass affecting the pace of England’s passing and making the team’s buildup appear ponderous.
England was much better after the opening goal, with Kane wasting a great chance for a second goal when he met a cross from Raheem Sterling with a side-footed effort on the half-volley that powered against the crossbar and rebounded clear.
In the second half, Phil Foden had a shot tipped onto the post by Berisha.
England faces arguably its biggest threat in the group on Wednesday when Poland visits Wembley Stadium, and Robert Lewandowski will arrive in prime form.
The Bayern Munich striker has scored in 10 straight games for club and country after his double in Poland’s 3-0 win over Andorra.
Hungary is level with Poland on four points after beating San Marino 3-0.
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