A first-half Harry Kane penalty was enough for England to beat Lithuania 1-0 in their final World Cup 2018 Qualifier this evening.
The Tottenham striker converted his 15th goal in 10 games for club and country from the spot on 27 minutes after Dele Alli had been clipped inside the area.
Manager Gareth Southgate opted to make seven changes to the side that had cemented their place in Russia by beating Slovakia with the same scoreline a few days earlier.
It is now four successive qualifying campaigns that the Three Lions have completed without losing a game.
The match kicked off with England dominating possession and they carved the first good chance when a cross from Aaron Cresswell was headed away from Harry Maguire who was waiting to head it into the net.
The Three Lions were looking to get the ball forward at every opportunity and a lovely combination between Alli and Marcus Rashford resulting in Kane hitting a shot just wide of the post.
Lithuania nearly took an undeserved lead in the 11th minute when Vytautas Andriuskevicius crossed the ball into Darvydas Sernas who half-volleyed the ball inches wide of Jack Butland’s post.
Normal service was swiftly resumed with England seeing plenty of possession in the final third but a lack of movement up front was resulting in a lack of any clear cut chances.
Midway through the first half the Three Lions had their best chance when the ball fell to Michael Keane on the edge of the area but his half-volley just missed the post.
Southgate’s men then broke the deadlock when Alli was clipped by Ovidijus Verbickas as he raced into the area, and Kane expertly converted in off the post to open up a 1-0 lead.
It seemed England suddenly found a bit more fluency in their play and lovely individual skill by Rashford inside the area resulted in a curling left-footed shot towards the back post that was parried by keeper Ernestas Setkus.
Just before half-time, Lithuania nearly found an equaliser when Fedor Cernych tested Butland from the edge of the area after Keane’s headed clearance had dropped to the striker.
Straight after the restart, debutant Harry Winks’ dreams nearly came true when his initial shot from just inside the area rebound back to him for a second attempt but the keeper parried the ball for a corner.
Just a couple of minutes later, Lithuania had another great chance and Keane’s heart must have been in his mouth when he volleyed a cross from Cernych towards his own goal, only for Butland to expertly palm it around the post.
Edgaras Jankauskas’ men were playing some decent stuff at times and their best move of the game came in the 63rd minute when neat interchange at the edge of the area resulted in Sernas blasting high and wide.
Even though England were dominating possession, they were struggling to find any penetration and adeventure with their passing, and were nearly made to pay five minutes from time when a ball over the top of the defence fell to substitute Deivydas Matulevicius who could only volley straight into the arms of Butland from ten yards out.
It’s been a far from convincing qualifying campaign from Southgate’s men and they’ll know they need to improve between now and next summer if they are to have any chance of winning the World Cup.
England: Butland 6; Keane 6, Maguire 6, Stones 6; Trippier 6, Winks 8, Henderson 6, Cresswell 6; Alli 6 (Lingard 5), Kane 7, Rashford 6 (Sturridge 5).
Subs not used: Pickford, Forster, Walker, Smalling, Cahill, Dier, Livermore, Defoe, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Sterling.
Lithuania: Setkus 6, Andriuskevicius 6, Girdvainis 6, Zulpa 6, Linas Klimavicius 6, Borovskij 6, Slivka 6 (Chvedukas 5), Verbickas 6, Novikovas 6, Sernas 6 (Matulevicius 5), Cernych 6.
Subs not used: Zubas, Freidgeimas, Kijanskas, Mikuckis, Silenas, Vaitkunas, Chvedukas, Papsys, Spalvis, Valskis, Cerniauskas.
Referee: Orel Grinfeld
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