England have left fans feeling that football really is coming home after a fantastic 6-1 win over Panama in the second World Cup group game.
Harry Kane hit a hat-trick, Jesse Lingard scored a stunner and John Stones got an unlikely brace as Panama were punished for their disruptive tactics.
England didn’t manage to keep a clean sheet as Felipe Baloy scored a historic first Panama goal at a World Cup, but Gareth Southgate’s team have won two games from two so far in the tournament.
Panama made their intentions clear from the start as Jesse Lingard was rocked with an elbow to the jaw by Gabriel Gomez after just two minutes. In truth, it was a red card offence but the referee and even VAR did not give a foul which would have meant a penalty for England. It was all forgotten about six minutes later though as England took the lead.
It was a Kieran Trippier corner that led to the goal and with everyone distracted by Panama wrestling English players to the ground, it was Manchester City defender Stones who ghosted in and slammed home a header to ease any pressure on Southgate’s team. It was a fantastic header from the ex-Barnsley man and it was the start of a special first half for the Three Lions.
Panama’s match tactics were bemusing as they preferred to foul, complain and kick up a fuss in an effort to annoy England rather than getting the ball down and playing. In fact, when they did try and play, they caused a problem evidenced when Edgar Barcenas curled just wide with a sweet left-footed strike from 25 yards.
For England, it was about focusing on the task at hand and that task got easier after 20 minutes. Lingard was played through by a nice pass from Trippier before the Manchester United man was bundled to the ground by both Fidel Escobar and Roman Torres. It was a clear penalty and after two minutes of trying to put Kane off, the England captain effortlessly smashed into the top corner with perhaps the best penalty scored in an England shirt.
Panama had fell apart and they fell further behind just two minutes later. Lingard has taken some flak for his poor finishing in Monday’s 2-1 win over Tunisia, but he showed his class with a stunning goal. He played a nice one-two with Raheem Sterling and picked out the top corner with a delicious curling shot to delight the English fans inside the stadium once again.
It was game over already but England were nowhere near done yet. A brilliant training ground routine on the 40th minute led to the fourth goal. Tripper rolled a free-kick to Jordan Henderson and the Liverpool midfielder did well to clip in a cross to the back post where Kane was rising. He headed back across the goal for Sterling who saw his close-range header brilliantly saved by Jaime Penedo but Stones was following in to grab his second of the game.
There was still time for England to grab a fifth goal before half-time and it was another superb penalty from Kane. Panama were going to get punished eventually for their holding at corners and this time, it was once too many. Kane didn’t mind though as he smashed into the same top corner as earlier to start gunning for a hat-trick.
Kane’s hat-trick would soon come mid-way through the second half, but it may just be the luckiest goal the Tottenham Hotspur man has ever scored. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who was starting instead of the injured Dele Alli, took a speculative shot on from thirty yards, but the ball clipped off Kane’s heel and went into the opposite corner to make it 6-0. It was actually Kane’s final touch of the game as he was about to substituted by Southgate for Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy.
After that, England definitely took their foot of the gas and it lead to Panama scoring their first ever World Cup goal. The defending will irk Southgate as the marking was slack as a free-kick from the left was whipped in and Baloy was sliding in to score. It was a blow for England as it meant that they were completely level with Belgium on points and goal difference.
The win was complete a long time ago though and it’s all about the final game of the group against Belgium. The winner will top the group and England will feel confident after today’s ruthless display.