Talking Tactics: Kane hat-trick helps Three Lions ease past Albania
Harry Kane scored a first-half hat-trick to put England on the verge of World Cup qualification with a 5-0 rout of Albania.
Harry Maguire found the net inside 10 minutes with a thumping header from a corner, while Jordan Henderson scored his first goal at Wembley just before the half-hour mark.
But it was Kane who stole the headlines, racking up a perfect hat-trick that took him to within nine goals of Wayne Rooney’s all-time England goalscoring record.
Gareth Southgate’s side now require just a point from their final qualifying game against San Marino on Monday evening to book their place in Qatar.
A change in system
The clash saw Southgate revert back to his tried and tested 3-4-3 formation after receiving backlash for deploying an attack-minded 4-3-3 last time out against Hungary.
Manchester City’s Kyle Walker and John Stones flanked Manchester United captain Maguire in a back three — the same trio that started the European Championship final.
Chelsea duo Reece James and Ben Chilwell, who have been in fine form for the Blues, took the two wing-back berths in the England manager's system.
The switch in formation paid huge dividends for Southgate’s side, with an extra body in defence allowing the Three Lions to easily bypass the Albanians' high press.
Three Lions captain Kane has not started the Premier League campaign in the way he would have liked.
Last season’s Premier League top goalscorer only has one league goal to his name so far this season.
But Kane shrugged off any doubts over his goalscoring pedigree with a well-taken treble.
The Tottenham striker's third goal was unquestionably the pick of the punch — a stunning acrobatic effort on the stroke of half-time.
His success means Kane has broken the record for the most competitive goals scored for the Three Lions, with 38 across his career to date.
It was another impressive defensive display from the Three Lions — picking up their 13th clean sheet of the calendar year.
There were a few nervy moments for the England backline early on, with Jordan Pickford making a brilliant save to deny Myrto Uzuni after an error from Walker.
But it was plain sailing for Southgate’s side after that scare, with Albania posing little threat to Pickford’s goal.
His team already hold the record for the most clean sheets in a single calendar year after breaking the previous England record from 1966 in September — and another shut-out will only have boosted the confidence of the Three Lions' imperious rearguard.
Henderson found his minutes limited for England at Euro 2020 in the summer.
The Liverpool captain was selected for Southgate’s 26-man squad despite still being in recovery from an injury.
And once Henderson was fully fit, he found it hard to displace Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips, who had formed an impressive alliance in the centre of the park.
But the midfielder slotted seamlessly back into the engine room this evening, picking up a goal and an assist in the convincing victory.
Lion cub's cameo
England’s superiority also allowed Southgate to give Arsenal midfielder Emile Smith Rowe his Three Lions debut.
Smith-Rowe has been in sensational form for the Gunners, with six goal contributions in his first 11 league matches.
The midfielder was not included in Southgate’s preliminary England squad for this current round of international fixtures, but injuries saw him receive his first call-up.
Despite only making a 13-minute cameo, the Arsenal starlet looked bright against a tiring Albanian defence.
With qualification to next year's World Cup all-but sealed, Smith-Rowe will surely be in line to make his first senior international start against San Marino on Monday.