• May 29, 2023

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England win at Italy for 1st time since 1961 to begin Euro 2024 qualifying

Harry Kane became England men’s all-time leading scorer as they started their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 2-1 victory over holders Italy in Naples on Thursday.

In a rematch of the final of the last European Championship, won on penalties by Italy, England were vastly superior in the first half and went into the break with a 2-0 lead courtesy of Declan Rice and Kane’s record-breaking strike from the penalty spot.

But Italy fought back in the second half and halved their deficit in the 56th minute when Argentina-born Mateo Retegui scored on his Azzurri debut following a giveaway by Harry Maguire.

The complexion of the game shifted further with 10 minutes left when Luke Shaw was sent off for a second yellow card to leave England to defend the final minutes with 10 men.

Gareth Southgate’s side, though, did enough to hold on and get their first away win versus Italy since 1961.

It proved to be the perfect response by England after the heartache of losing to France in the World Cup quarterfinals in December when Kane missed a crucial penalty.

This time he made no mistake after Giovanni Di Lorenzo was penalized for handball in the 42nd minute, finding the corner to take his England tally to 54, one more than Wayne Rooney.

Kane was also involved in England’s opener as his blocked shot fell for Rice to convert to silence the majority of fans inside the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.

Italy’s, who have failed to qualify for the last two World Cups, were far more dangerous in the second half after Retegui smashed a low shot past Jordan Pickford.

England sank deeper and deeper as they appeared to run out of legs but Italy struggled to create clear opportunities and suffered a first Euro qualifying defeat in 41 games.

It was England’s first competitive victory over Italy since 1977 and meant Southgate has racked up 50 wins as the national coach since taking the job in 2016.

But the night belonged to Kane.

“This means everything,” Kane said. “So excited to get back out there and put the England shirt back on. And it had to be a penalty of course. Once it hit the back of the net there was so much emotion. Just huge thanks to the players, staff and fans.”

Steve Carr

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