England make it two wins on the bounce with win in Albania

England make it two wins on the bounce in World Cup qualifying as Harry Kane and Mason Mount net in Albania, with Three Lions keeping another clean sheet

  • England beat Albania in their World Cup qualifying match via a simple 2-0 win
  • Harry Kane headed the Three Lions in front on after Luke Shaw’s brilliant cross 
  • England hit the post either side of half-time through Kane and Phil Foden  
  • Mason Mount capitalised on some poor Albania defending to double the lead 
  • Latest World Cup news, including fixtures and results

Sometimes in football, the simple things will take you where you need to go.

Passes over the heads of full-backs into space. Distribution that uses the full width of the field. Accurate crosses in to good areas towards centre forwards willing to make runs across the front of technically inferior defenders.

None of it is particularly revolutionary or clever. It may not always be that pretty.

England beat Albania to make it two wins from two in their 2022 World Cup qualifying bid

Harry Kane’s first England goal in 16 months opened the scoring for the visitors on 38 minutes

Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount doubled the advantage for the Three Lions after the break

But against opposition a notch below your level it can often be enough and in Tirana’s Arena Kombetare today it dug England out of a small hole that had been entirely of their own digging.

For almost 40 long minutes against Albania, England were too deep, too slow and too careful.

On a sluggish surface that was not designed to be their friend, it took Gareth Southgate’s players an awfully long time to figure out that playing across and in front of another packed defence was not really the way to go.

Had their manager handicapped them a little by fielding a side with two holding midfielder players – Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice – against a team ranked number 66 in the world? Maybe so. Southgate could perhaps have been a little braver here.

Gareth Southgate’s England struggled to create a great deal for the opening 35 minutes

Nevertheless, sometimes players have to work things out for themselves. Once England did that here they were on their way to a victory that was ultimately as comfortable as that recorded over San Marino at Wembley last Thursday.

One move, one cross and one header was all it actuallty took to turn this game. Prior to that, it had been even in terms of good chances. One each.

But when Mason Mount won possession cleverly 35 yards from goal and began a move that allowed Phil Foden to feed Luke Shaw on the left in the 38th minute, England were able to demonstrate their superior quality perhaps for the first time.

Shaw’s cross was a good one and it found England captain Harry Kane moving across his marker Freddie Vesili. The header down and towards the back post was a good one and it was a goal good enough and timely enough to essentially settle this game.

After a poor Three Lions start, Kane headed England in front from Luke Shaw’s perfect cross

Kane hadn’t scored for his country for 500 days prior to this. No wonder he had been so keen to play in the San Marino Turkey shoot.

And in scoring here, he was merely exerting a clear superiority over the Albanian defender trying to mark him.

Kane plays for Tottenham while Veseli plays in the Italian second tier having once turned out for Port Vale and Bury. It made sense, then, for England to attempt to place the two men in direct competition as often as possible. So why had it taken them so long?

After that, Kane could have scored two more. He could have registered another England hat-trick.

Kane nearly doubled his tally just before half-time but hit the bar from a few yards out

A superb cross by Raheem Sterling – the best of the game – saw Kane strike the crossbar on the half volley four minutes after his goal and then, in the second half, he was off target when left completely unmarked at a corner just before the hour.

By that time, England were playing much better. They had seen the light. The grass on the pitch was still long but had become less of a problem for a team now moving the ball quicker and looking to turn their opposition round with sharp, accurate balls in to better and deeper areas.

Having said that, the second goal was a gift. The Albania midfield gave the ball away 40 yards out and when Kane found Mount with a ball right to left in to the penalty area just after the hour, he was able to control it neatly and lift it first time with his right instep over the goalkeeper and in to the far corner.

Mount made the most on some poor Albanian defending to curl England’s second in

Mount will face tougher nights than the two he has just experienced for his country. Nevertheless, the Chelsea player has been outstanding in both.

The 22-year-old moves the ball beautifully, sees the big pictures and doesn’t seem to understand how complicated football can be if you allow it. The simplicity of Mount’s midfield play is its beauty and it will be extraordinary if he is not in Southgate’s team when the European Championships begin in June.

Having said all that, a rare misstep early in the game could have seen his team fall behind. Mount was trying to intercept a pass in the Albanian half in the 13th minute but in doing so could only divert the ball in to the path of the home team’s number four Elseid Hysaj. 

England were fortunate not to gall behind in the first half when Myrto Uzuni blazed over


Albania (4-3-3): Berisha; Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsiti, Veseli; Laci (sub Ramadani 89), Bare (sub Memushaj 71), Memolla (sub Gjasula 59); Cikalleshi (sub Manaj 59), Broja (sub Lenjani 59), Uzuni

Subs not used: Strakhosa, Selmani, A.Ajeti, Hoxhallari, Doka, Kallaku, Kamberi

Booked: Hysaj, Bare, Gjasula

England (4-3-3): Pope; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Phillips (sub Ward-Prowse 71), Rice, Mount; Foden (sub Lingard 81), Kane, Sterling 

Subs not used: Henderson, Trippier, Coady, James, Calvert-Lewin, Mings, Chilwell, Watkins, Johnstone, Bellingham

Booked: Walker, Kane

Goals: Kane 38, Mount 63

Referee: Orel Grinfeld (ISR) 

Suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, Albania were on the break and when Hysaj fed Myrto Uzuni through the middle the forward shot over when really he should have scored. 

That felt like an important moment in the game. Albania were never likely to create many opportunities and so it turned out. Indeed England goalkeeper Nick Pope was ultimately able to record his seventh consecutive clean sheet for his country without having to make a save. 

The Burnley player – who may need to work on his distribution if he is replace Jordan Pickford in the long term – did not need to make one against San Marino either.

Over the course of this game, Albania’s keeper Etrit Berisha was also not overly busy. The only chance England created before Kane’s goal saw John Stones head over from a corner.

Subsequently Berisha did do well to touch a Foden shot on to the post after Sterling ran to a Mount pass to look up and pull the ball back. Apart from that, Berisha – also from Italy’s Serie B – was not overly troubled and that is something Southgate may wish to think about as he prepares his debrief ahead of Poland at Wembley on Wednesday.

England have the best group of technical and creative players they have had for some time. But they need to have game intelligence, too. So does their coach. This was a perfectly satisfactory England victory but equally a performance that took a little too long to find answers to a perfectly straight forward puzzle. 

Sportsmail’s SAM BLITZ was on the live blog for the World Cup qualifier between Albania and England…

Host commentator

Raheem Sterling misses a late chance but it’s a routine job for England here in Albania. Gareth Southgate’s side started poorly but Harry Kane’s header on 38 minutes got the ball rolling after Luke Shaw’s brilliant cross.

The Three Lions hit the woodwork either side of half-time through Kane and Phil Foden but Mason Mount made Albania pay for a costly error while playing out the back to double the advantage and seal the points.

Another simple display for England in a busy period. Two wins form two so far in their road to Qatar 2022.

90 mins: Harry Kane gets an opening down the left but his shot inside the box is deflected behind twice for a corner.

Four minutes added here in Tirana. 

89 mins: Another change for Albania. Ylber Ramadani comes on for Qazim Laci.

85 mins: England are controlling matters here and are not too keen to get a third at the moment.

Harry Kane tries to find Raheem Sterling with a ball over the top but there’s too much on it.

81 mins: Another change for England. Jesse Lingard comes on for Phil Foden. Manchester man for Manchester man. 

77 mins: A chance for Albania, their first in a long while. 

Nick Pope comes out to punch away a cross and collides into Harry Maguire. Pope’s clearance falls into the path of an Albanian man in the box but Declan Rice does well to clear.

73 mins: Immediate impact from James Ward-Prowse. The Southampton man puts in a brilliant ball towards Harry Kane, who flicks towards Raheem Sterling who produces an air kick inside the six-yard box. 

The ball falls back to Kane from close range but there’s a collapse of bodies and Kane is penalised for a free-kick and is booked.

70 mins: The first England change of the afternoon sees James Ward-Prowse come on for Kalvin Phillips. 

Not a bad outing for the Leeds man, who certainly improved in the second half. 

68 mins: England have had 75 per cent possession here this evening but the total must surely be higher for this second half display. 

Albania have the chance to make in-roads in the England half as Kyle Walker fouls Keidi Bare and earns himself a yellow card.

63 mins: England double their lead but Albania are the creators of their own downfall here.

The hosts try to play the ball out the back but Raheem Sterling intercepts after some intense pressing. The ball falls to Harry Kane who feeds Mason Mount up in the box – the Chelsea man opened his body up before curling past Berisha. 

The daylight England deserve.

61 mins: Kalvin Phillips bursts down the right and tries to find Harry Kane in the penalty area but Albanian defender Ardian Ismajli clears the ball before the England captain had a tap-in. 

The second-half play has been played exclusively in the Albanian half so far.

58 mins: Mason Mount tries to play another ball in behind for Raheem Sterling but Etrit Berisha is out at the winger’s feet.

Double substitution for Albania, Sokol Cikalleshi and Armando Broja are off for Ermir Lenjani and Rey Manaj. 

57 mins: Another big miss for England. Phil Foden’s corner gets a slight flick-on from Declan Rice but Harry Kane blasts over a first-time finish from inside the box.

England are moving towards a second goal here…

54 mins: Another Manchester City combination for England. Phil Foden plays the underlapping Kyle Walker in down the right. The right-back tries to find Raheem Sterling in the box but an Albanian defender clears from inside the six-yard box.

Whatever Gareth Southgate said at half-time has worked so far for England. 

52 mins: Electric start to the half from England and it nearly leads to a second goal.

Mason Mount plays a gorgeous pass in behind for Raheem Sterling down the left. The Manchester City man beats his man and feeds club team-mate Phil Foden in the box.

Foden curls the ball goalwards but Etrit Berisha tips the ball onto the post and the ball is cleared.

49 mins: Much better start to this half from England. Harry Kane does what he does so well and drop deep to allow space in behind – the England captain playing Raheem Sterling through on goal.

The England winger, however, can’t get his feet in order and Albania track back to clear. 

46 mins: Second-half up and running here. Albania resume proceedings…

The two teams are back out for the second-half here in Albania. Will we see a more positive England like we saw in the final few minutes of the first-half?

Harry Kane scores in another international stadium. But the Three Lions need him to find the net regularly at Wembley – this is England’s last game away from the north west London stadium for the foreseeable future.

Here’s how Harry Kane gave England the lead when the first-half looked to be fizzling out towards a goalless conclusion.

Luke Shaw’s 2021 is getting even better. What a brilliant cross in from the Manchester United full-back.

No added time here in Albania. England have the lead but it took an awful long time to come.

Gareth Southgate’s side struggled to generate anything in the opening 35 minutes and Albania even had the better chances. But Harry Kane headed home Luke Shaw’s cross to score his first Three Lions goal in over 500 days to ease the nerves.

Kane nearly had a second just minutes later, but crashed a close-range effort onto the bar when he should have found the net.

So far, so good from Gareth Southgate’s side.

42 mins: England, where have you been for the last 40 minutes? Gareth Southgate’s men have clicked into gear in the final few minutes of this half.

Again it’s a great delivery from the left as Raheem Sterling finds Harry Kane in the box again and the England striker hits the crossbar from around four yards out.

He may have one already in this game but that goes down as a sitter for Kane. 


40 mins: This game needed a goal. Hopefully Albania will come out and give England more space in the midfield. 

Raheem Sterling tries to find Kane inside the box as well but a last-ditch block denies the England captain a clear goalscoring chance. 

38 mins: Just as the half was looking to dwindle, England find the breakthrough!

Good build-up play from Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount gives Luke Shaw a chance to deliver. The Manchester United left-back finds Harry Kane at the back post and the England number nine’s header is perfect.

It’s his first England goal since November 2019.

33 mins: Finally! A shot! It’s been a while.

Not the most clear cut of chances as Kyle Walker tries a venomous strike from 30 yards but the ball bounces into the arms of Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.

30 mins: England come again. Phil Foden delivers a free-kick from the left and Declan Rice is free inside the box. The West Ham man completely misses the header and Albania can clear. 

Mason Mount tries a couple of testing vertical passes into the Albania box but the home side are defending smartly.

28 mins: Better from England. Phil Foden feeds Mason Mount down the right and the Chelsea man crosses towards Raheem Sterling. Only the intervention of Ardian Ismajli stops Steriing have a clear sight on goal. 

At the other end, Nick Pope has to smother at the feet of Myrto Uzuni as Albania threatened a counter-attack. 

22 mins: Harry Kane… hits Harry Maguire in the wall. That pretty much sums England up so far.

21 mins: Free-kick in a very dangerous position for England. 

Albania give away possession cheaply in their own half and Phil Foden breaks. He feeds Mason Mount who is brought down by Keidi Bare who gets booked.

Harry Kane is over it, around 25 yards from goal…

18 mins: England haven’t quite settled here so far. The pitch looks to be holding the ball up which is affecting the Three Lions’ tempo.

Possession is all well and good but the England forwards are struggling to combine at the top end of the pitch.

15 mins: England’s turn to come forward and once again Phil Foden is at the heart of the action. 

The Manchester City man delivers a corner in and Harry Kane meets it, but the England captain gets his bearings all wrong and his effort bounces off his body and dribbles wide.

12 mins: Massive chance – but for Albania!

England are caught high up the pitch from a corner and suddenly the hosts have a two versus one on the counter attack. 

Striker Myrto Uzuni is played clear through on goal but fires over Nick Pope’s goal. He should have done better there.

A warning for England there. 

9 mins: First sight of goal and it goes to England. Phil Foden whips in a cross from the left and Mason Mount tries to head it goalward but an Albanian defender gets it behind for a corner.

From the resulting set piece, Foden gets another delivery in and finds Manchester City team-mate John Stones but the defender fires over. 

5 mins: Raheem Sterling, who has started on the right with Phil Foden on the left, gets his first run at the Albanian left-back and feeds Kalvin Phillips but the Leeds man gives away possession on the edge of the box. 

The Three Lions have dominated the first five minutes in terms of possession but are yet to create anything so far.

3 mins: An early observation from England’s backline. Kyle Walker lines up next to John Stones on the right-hand side. Harry Maguire next to Luke Shaw on the left. 

A deliberate ploy by Gareth Southgate to play Manchester team-mates next to each other?

0 mins: National anthems done, pre-match talking over. England get us underway…

The teams are coming out the tunnel, we’re moments away from kick-off in Tirana. Can Gareth Southgate’s make it two wins from two in their road to Qatar 2022?

Just over ten minutes to go until kick-off, here are a reminder of the two line-ups this afternoon:

Albania XI: Berisha (c); Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsti Veseli; Laci, Bare, Memolla; Uzuni, Cikalleshi, Broja

England XI: Pope; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Foden, Mount, Sterling, Kane (c)

It’s the first time John Stones and Harry Maguire have played alongside each other in an England shirt for some time. The pair were defensive team-mates at international level during the 2018 World Cup and are back in the heart of the backline again.

Stones and Maguire play for Manchester rivals City and United respectively, but the latter has claimed the club rivalry does not impact their relationship for the Three Lions.

England’s players are warming up on the touchline ahead of this World Cup qualifier.

Not much could be learned from the San Marino match last week, this is a better opportunity for players to stake a claim for a Euro 2020 spot this summer. 

One player looking to cause an upset this afternoon is Albanian winger Armando Broja, who was born in Berskhire despite turning out for England’s opponents this afternoon.

The Chelsea winger, on loan at Vitesse Arnhem this season, made his professional debut under Frank Lampard last season just before the coronavirus hiatus. 

Broja will be known to the likes of Mason Mount and Reece James, so England should be warned about any potential threat.

This is England’s second of three international matches during this month’s schedule. After this afternoon, the Three Lions take on Poland in yet another World Cup qualifier.

Last time out, Gareth Southgate’s men were imperious against international part-timers San Marino. Dominic Calvert-Lewin got a brace, Ollie Watkins and James Ward-Prowse scored their first international goals while Raheem Sterling got on the scoresheet.

Here’s Sportsmail reporter IAN LADYMAN’s take on last Thursday’s win at Wembley…

England: 1/4

Draw: 9/2

Albania: 12/1

Harry Kane first goalscorer: 11/5

Odds from Betting Expert

England’s starting line-up for Euro 2020 is one of the most talked about sporting debates in the country and Gareth Southgate looks like a back four will be the Three Lions’ formation of choice this calendar year.

He has answered the calls of Sportsmail columnist Danny Murphy, who claims the Three Lions should adopt an attacking line-up with Raheem Sterling, Mason Mount, Jack Grealish, Harry Kane AND Phil Foden all in the starting line-up. 

Four of the the five start this afternoon – Grealish is out injured for this international break. 

Speaking of the stadium, check out the arena England are playing in tonight! The outside looks like a shopping centre…

The Arena Kombatare holds 22,500 people and was first built in 2016. It’s the largest stadium in the country and will host the 2022 Europa Conference League final next season.

Gareth Southgate’s England are inspecting the pitch this afternoon ahead of this afternoon’s fixture.

Harry Kane is restored to the starting line-up having been rested for the San Marino tie. The Three Lions captain is hoping to build on his 32 international goals in 51 caps.

There are a couple of familiar names to take note of in the Albanian line-up. One recognisable figure is right-back Elseid Hysaj who plays for Napoli.

Chelsea fans may recognise the name Armando Broja, who lines up in the front three this afternoon. The winger is on loan from the Blues at, you guessed it, Vitesse Arnhem.

Albania XI: Berisha; Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsti Veseli; Laci, Bare, Memolla; Uzuni, Cikalleshi, Broja

Gareth Southgate makes six changes from the England side who beat San Marino 5-0 earlier this week.

Harry Kane returns to captain the Three Lions while there’s a first England start since 2019 for Manchester United Luke Shaw. 

Nick Pope, John Stones, Kalvin Phillips, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount are the only survivors from the Wembley win on Thursday. Declan Rice, Kyle Walker, Harry Maguire, and Phil Foden also come in.

England had it easy on Thursday night, now their World Cup qualifying campaign gets a bit harder.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions travel to Albania for their second qualifier for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. More importantly, we may get a better idea of how England will line-up during this summer’s European Championships. 

After some doubts earlier in the week, this match is on and we’ll have live coverage throughout the afternoon.

Kick-off is at 5pm (BST) but team news is out already…

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