Harry Kane took just 40 seconds to stop North Macedonia’s birthday party poopers from completely ruining Rico Lewis’ big night for England. The Manchester City defender, who made his full debut on the eve of his 19th birthday, was named man of the match following the 1-1 draw in Skopje.
That despite conceding the severe penalty that threatened England with their first World Cup win. As Gareth Southgate’s much-changed side struggled to get back into the game, Kane stepped up in the second half and scored an own-goal equalizer for his first of the game.
“It was good to get on the pitch, I always try to help the team whether it’s 90 minutes or 10 minutes,” Kane said. “It was important for us to get a goal back and it’s a shame we couldn’t get a second.
“We were playing against a team that people expected us to score five or six nil, but they outworked Italy in the World Cup qualifiers to knock them out. We can be really proud of how the qualifying campaign went.”
He added that Lewis could be “proud” of his debut and predicted he would return to the senior team in 2024 although his manager was more concerned that he did not realize it was his birthday. “Is it his birthday tomorrow? I’m sure we have something for him,” he laughed.
“He was excellent, his sympathy with the ball, the fact that he answered that goal with the penalty, which was really hard. I know sometimes as a player you might feel like you have to bounce back.
“But we thought there was no crime. We were happy with everything he did. He is a great footballer.” At least 2023 remained unbeaten for England.
Southgate added: “I thought the performance was good. Mentality was excellent, I thought we played well. We completely controlled the game. It was difficult with the way they defended and the pitch was not easy to make the perfect final pass.
“But I thought there were some excellent performances within the game. The results were really big in March, the win in Italy and the result against Ukraine. It meant that it was another test to come here tonight, since we have qualified and everything has been achieved.
“The attitude of the players was excellent, the quality of the ball was good on a very difficult pitch and there were many positive performances.”
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