Kane’s fortunate hat-trick headlines crushing English victory

Ricardo Ávila delivered the free-kick into the box from a fairly dangerous position. The set piece wasn’t particularly well defended by the English, and 37-year-old Panamanian substitute Felipe Baloy, on World Cup debut, found space in the box. He slid in, the ball caught his outstretched boot, and Jordan Pickford’s dive couldn’t keep it out of the bottom corner. In their second World Cup game, Panama finally had their first World Cup goal, and the Panamanian fans in Nizhny Novgorod were jubilant. An outside observer may have seen the rapturous celebrations and assumed Panama were level, even ahead. If only those six English goals (five in the first half) were taken out of the equation. Panama had some chances, and Baloy’s historic goal ensured their fans left the ground in fairly good spirits, but they were never going to match it with a classy English team. After going into half time 5-0 down following a steady procession of English goals, the Panamanians were lucky it didn’t get any worse.

The first goal came from a poorly-defended corner. There was a delay in taking the kick as referee Gehad Grisha delivered the customary lecture on not holding in the box, and then had to deliver said lecture again when Harry Maguire and Gabriel Gómez both tumbled to the ground. Finally, Kieran Trippier swung the corner in, despite Maguire and Gómez continuing to jostle aggressively with each other. They attracted the attention, but it was John Stones who scored the goal. Stones was seemingly unmarked, having benefitted from some unbelievably loose defence from Michael Murillo, and he had no problems heading the ball into the bottom corner.

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Raheem Sterling (left) is thwarted by Jaime Penedo as he looks to get in behind the Panamanian defence. Sterling made plenty of good runs and got into dangerous positions, but he couldn’t get himself a goal.

The second goal wasn’t too long in coming. Jesse Lingard made a good run in behind the Panamanian defence, and was picked out on the edge of the box. Then he was brutally hacked down by both of Panama’s centre-backs, with Fidel Escobar getting in first before Román Torres added his weight to the very heavy – and very illegal – challenge. Harry Kane stepped up to take the penalty, and the English captain drilled a perfect spot kick past Jaime Penedo.

If the game wasn’t already over after Kane’s penalty, it was after Lingard scored the third goal. The energetic midfielder received the ball on the edge of the box, played a one-two with Raheem Sterling to get himself in position and fired an unstoppable shot into the top corner. It looked ridiculously simple. It most definitely wasn’t. Penedo’s full-length dive was in vain against Lingard’s casual brilliance, and there were still 10 minutes left in the half. Time enough for two more goals, then.

The fourth came from a carefully designed set piece. England won a free-kick in an awkward position, where neither a shot nor a cross was particularly simple. Instead, Trippier went for a short pass to Jordan Henderson, who crossed the ball across the goal face to where Kane was waiting. He headed back towards the middle, and Panama’s defence was so poor that both Sterling and Stones were wide open in front of goal. Sterling missed, with Penedo making a good reflex save, but Stones gleefully headed the rebound into the roof of the net. England’s plan worked like clockwork, and Panama’s defence couldn’t lay a hand on them.

Harry Kane scores his second goal, and England’s fifth, with a successful penalty. The penalty was one of two Panama gave away with clumsy pieces of defending.

Another set piece, leading to another penalty, gave them the fifth as the steady procession of goals continued. It’s not clear who gave away the penalty from Trippier’s corner, with Aníbal Godoy tackling Kane to the ground particularly vigorously and others receiving similar treatment. Kane happily accepted his second goal from the spot, with Penedo beaten once again. The half time whistle gave Panama some respite, but the scoreline was already beyond ugly.

England only scored one in the second half, with Kane bagging his hat-trick in a comical fashion and looking almost apologetic as the ball went into the back of the net. Ruben Loftus-Cheek did the hard work, taking on an ambitious shot directed at the bottom corner of the Panamanian goal. Then it took a big deflection. Kane was in mid-stride and not looking at the ball as it rolled into the back of his heels, and Penedo could only watch helplessly as the ball looped into the back of the net. There was a suggestion that Kane was offside, but the goal stood and England’s captain was substituted immediately after his last touch led to a goal he didn’t intend to score. You couldn’t make it up. In the end, Baloy’s goal gave Panama something to celebrate, but there was no hiding their inadequacy when compared with their opponents. For England, expectations have been muted up to this point. That could be about to change.

Nizhny Novgorod – Nizhny Novgorod Stadium
England 6 (Stones 8, 40, Kane 22 pen, 45+1 pen, 62, Lingard 36)
Panama 1 (Baloy 78)
Referee: Gehad Grisha (Egy)
England (3-5-2): Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire; Trippier (Rose 70), Loftus-Cheek, Henderson, Lingard (Delph 63), Young; Sterling, Kane (Vardy 63).
Panama (4-5-1): Penedo – Murillo, R Torres, Escobar, Davis; Bárcenas (Arroyo 69), Cooper, Gómez (Baloy 69), Godoy (Ávila 64), Rodríguez; Pérez.

Top 5
1. Jesse Lingard (England)
Lingard backed up his performance in England’s tournament opener with another energetic display. He found a goal for himself with an excellent strike into the top corner, and he provided the spark for Kane’s first goal with a great run in behind. He continued to make dangerous runs until his eventual substitution and he seems to have found a rich vein of form.
2. John Stones (England)
Stones had very little defensive work to do, but it was his work at attacking set pieces that set him apart. He was left completely unmanned at a corner and a free-kick, and Panama played a heavy price for their weak defence as Stones found two goals and worked his way into good positions.
3. Harry Kane (England)
A hat-trick is a hat-trick, but his three goals against Panama will rate as three of the most fortunate of his career. His two penalties were both well-hit, however, and although he was lucky to complete his hat-trick with a goal he didn’t even mean to score his three goals were a testament to his ability to get into good attacking spots.
4. Raheem Sterling (England)
Sterling will be unhappy that he missed a brilliant chance to break his international goal drought, but he did put in a good performance filled with plenty of dangerous runs and a couple of involvements in goals. He was putting in a big effort for 90 minutes, and he was unlucky not to find the back of the net.
5. Kieran Trippier (England)
Trippier’s set piece delivery may have been dangerous against Tunisia, but against a Panamanian team with poor defensive organisation his corners and free-kicks were even more damaging. His set pieces contributed, directly or indirectly, to three of England’s goals, and he did his few defensive duties diligently.

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Cubs triumph goes beyond sport

After months of competition, the World Series comes down to this. In one corner, the Cleveland Indians. They haven’t won it all since 1948, and they are playing in a bad city for professional sporting teams. The Cleveland Browns are the NFL’s longest running joke, and before the return of prodigal son LeBron James the Cavaliers were no different when it came to the NBA. Now, the Indians have the chance to change that. With a win in the World Series, they would deliver a second major sporting title to Cleveland in less than six months. If you consider all of this, the Indians sound like the sentimental favourites. In fact, they’re not even close.

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Euphoria: Chicago Cubs players celebrate their win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS.

Instead, an Indians win would be less akin to a fairy-tale and more like the Grinch stealing Christmas. Their opponents? The Chicago Cubs. If the Indians think they have it hard, they have nothing on the long-suffering Cubs. Chicago have not been to the World Series since 1945, and the last time they actually won it was over 100 years ago, in 1908. Over the last 71 years, they have built up a reputation as Major League Baseball’s loveable losers. They have been so remarkably inept over that time that no-one sees them as a worry, and while the faithful keep turning up the wins don’t come too. To add to their placid image, the so-called “curse” which has plagued the club since 1945 is linked to an evicted billy goat in 1945. No kidding.

The Cubs have made the World Series, and in doing so they have crossed a bridge that has long been impassable. That one throw against Los Angeles, from Javier Baez to Anthony Rizzo, has changed everything. It has brought joy to those who have waited decades for it, but Cubs fans will know it’s not over yet. None of them will see it as a sure thing, instead looking at all the things that could so easily derail the Cubs bandwagon. It is nowhere near a sure thing against a team like the Indians. But this World Series goes so far beyond the seven games between Cleveland and Chicago. It represents seventy years of suffering, of constant losses and the Billy Goat curse. The Wrigley faithful, who have kept turning up in all conditions despite loss after loss, just deserve this. They’ll be turning up again throughout this World Series, loud and joyful as ever. They have the support of the neutrals, they have the team, and they have the confidence. Now all they need is the ring.

UEFA Euro 2016 Knockout Stage Preview – Hungary vs Belgium

Hungary vs Belgium, Stadium Municipal, Toulouse


Match Log

Hungary

Austria 0, Hungary 2 (Szalai 62, Stieber 87)
Iceland 1 (G Sigurdsson 40 pen), Hungary 1 (Saevarsson 88 og)
Hungary 3 (Gera 19, Dzsudzsak 47, 55), Portugal 3 (Nani 42, Ronaldo 50, 62)

Belgium

Belgium 0, Italy 2 (Giaccherini 32, Pelle 90+3)
Belgium 3 (R Lukaku 48, 70, Witsel 61), Republic of Ireland 0
Sweden 0, Belgium 1 (Nainggolan 84)

Team News

Hungary

The Hungarians are not likely to make any changes from the team that drew 3-3 with the Portuguese in Lyon, although Bernd Storck may consider selecting Laszlo Kleinheisler in midfield. Adam Szalai has been effective and should be retained up front, while Gabor Kiraly will continue in goal despite poor form in the group stage.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Kiraly – Lang, Guzmics, Juhasz, Korhut; Gera, Pinter; Dzsudzsak, Elek, Lovrencsics; Szalai.

Belgium

Marc Wilmots has no injuries to deal with, and he seems to have settled on his preferred starting line-up. Radja Nainggolan should edge out Marouane Fellaini and Mousa Dembele to partner Axel Witsel in the centre of midfield, and Kevin de Bruyne will play in a number 10 role after starting the tournament on a wing.
Likely team (4-2-3-1): Courtois – Meunier, Alderweireld, Vermaelen, Vertonghen; Nainggolan, Witsel; Carrasco, de Bruyne, Hazard; R Lukaku.

Keys to success

Hungary

Hungary provided one of the surprises of the tournament when they finished first in their group, and they have the ability to provide a further upset by taking out the Belgians, who are ranked second in the world. Balazs Dzsudzsak has been in brilliant form, and Hungary will rely on him and Szalai for goals. Kiraly will need to improve upon his group stage performances against a Belgian side who are sure to create plenty of chances, and the defence as a whole will need to step up.

Belgium

Belgium have not played at their best this tournament, and they will be looking for their stars to perform against Hungary. The use of de Bruyne on the wing was a disaster, but he has been in great form since switching back to the centre. He will need to get Romelu Lukaku, Yannick Carrasco and Eden Hazard involved in the game, and he will need to create plenty of chances from set pieces. The defence has not communicated as well as it should have throughout, and Wilmots will be hoping for a cohesive defence against Hungary.

Prediction

Belgium are a huge step up in quality for Hungary, but while there is plenty of individual talent in the Belgian side their team play has never really been a strength. Even still, with two of the best players in Europe playing just behind the attack Belgium should create better chances and should win. Belgium 2-0.