Harry Kane scored a dramatic injury-time winner as England beat Tunisia 2-1 in their World Cup opener in Volgograd today.
The England captain, who had volleyed his side into an early lead, headed home after John Stones had flicked on a Kieran Tripper corner in the 91st minute to secure a vital three points in their bid to qualify from Group G.
A controversial penalty looked to have denied them the win when Kyle Walker was harshly penalised for an elbow on Fakhreddine Ben Youssef 10 minutes before half-time and Ferjani Sassi coolly slotted home.
But Kane’s late intervention means Gareth Southgate’s young side move level with Belgium – who beat Panama 3-0 earlier in the day – at the top of the group and start their World Cup campaign in positive fashion.
England’s rampant start was capped by a sharp volleyed goal from their captain in the 11th minute. Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen brilliantly palmed away Stones’ header from Ashley Young’s corner, but Kane was alert to smash home from close range.
By the time Hassen left the field in tears on 15 minutes, he had already made three excellent saves – including the third-minute outstretched foot which denied Jesse Lingard and saw the goalkeeper pick up the injury that would ultimately end his night early.
Lingard, Jordan Henderson and Harry Maguire wasted opportunities as England remained in total control until the 35th minute when Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the penalty spot to allow Tunisia back into the game.
Walker’s trailing arm, which caught Ben Youssef in the face as the duo challenged for a high cross, was judged to be a foul and after the VAR opted not to overturn the call, Sassi brilliantly slotted home, despite Jordan Pickford diving the right way.
Moments later, England were denied a penalty of their own when Sassi wrestled with Kane in the area, though Stones miskicked a simple chance from eight yards when the ball broke to him seconds later – and there was still time for Lingard to prod a Kieran Trippier through-ball onto the outside of the post before an incident-packed first half ended.
The referee did not penalise a further hold on Kane by Yassine Meriah early in a second half which lacked the intensity of the first and was devoid of clear opportunities, despite the introductions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for the ineffective Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli.
Indeed, there was only one genuine chance in the second half and Kane was alert to convert it, losing his marker and nodding home from three yards at the back post to sink the valiant Tunisians and spark England’s World Cup campaign into life.