Kane bags three as Spurs cruise home

The score was 3-0. Harry Kane had two goals already when he found Dele Alli on the edge of the area. Alli, one of the most exciting players unearthed in England for years, received the ball and stopped, leaving the defenders who now crowded around him in limbo. From a standing start he lifted it over all of them, finding Kane with pinpoint accuracy. All Kane had to do was get a boot on it and allow it to trickle in. Ben Foster, in the West Brom goal, half-stuck out a leg to stop it. He had performed admirably, but now he had given up.

It would be hard to find anyone who could blame him. West Brom had started the match against Tottenham Hotspur hopeful of a good result, but in the end they were extremely lucky that they only lost 4-0. From the word go, Spurs played as if there was no opposition, dominating possession and cutting through West Brom’s stacked defence with almost contemptuous ease. Kane nearly scored in the first five minutes, getting on the end of a brilliant cross from Danny Rose and almost directing it into the bottom corner.

A few minutes later they were ahead, with Kane finishing after a brilliant pass from Christian Eriksen. He controlled it at close quarters before slotting it into the top corner, past a sliding Jonas Olsson and a diving Foster. Spurs had the lead, and they needed to stay in control.

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Collision: Jonas Olsson (right) attempts to block Kyle Walker’s attempt at a volley.

Things only got worse for West Brom after Spurs opened the scoring. The hosts were brimming with confidence, and they continued to hold the ball and sustain the pressure. Salomon Rondon, West Brom’s sole striker, was so isolated he may as well have celebrated every time he actually touched the ball. Worse still, he probably had the time. Meanwhile, Kane was in everything as Spurs forced a string of corners. Once he was tripped by Olsson as the long-haired Swede looked to hold him back at a corner. Referee Anthony Taylor called nothing. Kane had a chance when Victor Wanyama put a dangerous ball into the box, but Foster managed to deny him.

That the second goal was adjudged to be an own goal should take nothing away from Spurs. It started with Danny Rose, who beat a couple on the break before giving it to Eriksen. Both continued moving forward, and after Kyle Walker put in an excellent pass both Rose and Eriksen touched the ball before Eriksen’s shot was deflected past Foster by McAuley, the Northern Irishman who could not take a trick. Later on in the piece, he was clearly tripped by Walker, and when he complained to the assistant he was booked for dissent. It was that kind of day.

Kane, Alli and Eriksen, however, could do no wrong. Shortly after Spurs doubled their lead came the biggest disappointment of the match, when Alli had a goal disallowed for offside. Eriksen lifted it over the top, and Alli’s touch was sublime as he diverted it past Foster with the side of his boot. Unfortunately, it didn’t count for anything, but it still summed up the first half-hour perfectly.

Kane would have a couple more chances in the first half, but he was still yet to add to his first goal as the sides went to the break, West Brom down 2-0 and completely and utterly beaten. Tony Pulis made some changes at half-time, and they came out much improved, but things changed very little. Even with a bit more possession, their best chance of the game came when Darren Fletcher was presented with an open goal. An open goal from just inside halfway, that is.

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Too easy: Harry Kane (front) scores his third goal as Craig Dawson desperately tries to stop him.

Soon Spurs had worked out the change in shape, and they were back to their old ways. Alli was denied a penalty when he was pushed by Craig Dawson, and suddenly the chances were coming again. One Eriksen corner drew shots from Kane, Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, and forced two great saves from Foster. Then Kane turned Olsson after an incredible display of skill from Alli, and Foster was forced into another brilliant stop.

Every time Spurs had the ball they looked as if they would score, such was their assurance in how they went about their business. Kane was fouled by Olsson as he looked to break through, a foul which may have drawn a red card if it had occurred closer to goal. Wanyama forced a great save from Foster, before Kane slotted his second.

Once again, it was Alli who started it, playing a long ball down the right wing which Walker pursued with vigour. McAuley got there first but was hurried off the ball, allowing Walker to put the ball in for Kane. Foster had inexplicably come off his line, and he was nowhere near it. Finally, the result was beyond all doubt.

Kane added his third shortly after, and received a much-deserved ovation as he left the game in the ninetieth minute, replaced by Son Heung-min. For Spurs, they put in a performance worthy of the title contenders that they are, and seem to be finding their feet as the end of the season creeps upon us.

London – White Hart Lane
Tottenham Hotspur 4 (Kane 12, 77, 82, McAuley 26 og)
West Bromwich Albion 0
Referee: Anthony Taylor

Tottenham Hotspur (3-4-2-1): Lloris – Dier, Alderweireld, Vertonghen (Davies 64); Walker, Wanyama, Dembele (Winks 83), Rose; Eriksen, Alli; Kane (Son 90).
West Bromwich Albion (4-2-3-1): Foster – Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, Brunt (McClean 54); Fletcher, Yacob; Chadli (Robson-Kanu 62), Morrison, Phillips (Field 90); Rondon.

Top 5
1. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
Kane was everywhere from start to finish, bagging a hat-trick and allowing Spurs to ram home their early dominance with his excellent finishing. He combined brilliantly with Eriksen and Alli, and he fully deserved the standing ovation he received when leaving the field.
2. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham Hotspur)
Eriksen was in top form throughout, directing everything and creating huge problems for West Brom with his skill and vision. He was unlucky not to be credited with Tottenham’s second goal, and he will be looking to keep up his excellent form in weeks to come.
3. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur)
Alli was on top of his game, showing incredible skill and setting up Kane’s third goal with a brilliant lofted pass. He had a beautiful finish disallowed for offside, and his combination with Kane and Eriksen was a key part of Tottenham’s success.
4. Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur)
Walker was excellent as a right wing-back, taking Matt Phillips out of the game and pressing forward to open up the midfield for Spurs. He assisted the third goal with an excellent cross, and his energy in both attack and defence was outstanding.
5. Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion)
Foster was the main reason West Brom only lost 4-0, making a string of brilliant saves and keeping the lead at 2-0 for most of the match. He conceded a couple of goals at the end, but in a game where the presence of most of his teammates was non-existent he can hold his head high.


Iceland take out England as dream run continues

This knockout stage has seen a number of fairy-tale runs nipped off at the bud, with losses to both of the Irish sides and a big loss to the so-called ‘Magical Magyars’ of Hungary. It looked as if Iceland would be going a similar way for a short period at the Allianz Riviera. The fact that Iceland are even at this tournament is remarkable, and with a population of just over 330,000 people their qualification was greeted with huge celebrations. They came up against Portugal and put in a disciplined performance to hold them to a draw. They would have beaten Hungary but for an 88th minute own goal. Arnor Ingvi Traustason scored with the last kick of the game against Austria to win them the match and send them through to the round of 16 as they claimed second place in their group. There they were to face England, a considerably bigger island nation with a population of just over 54 million. It was a group of players playing in the most profitable league in the world against a team made up of players scattered throughout Scandinavia and the English lower leagues.

Iceland conceded first after they gave away an early penalty. Hannes Halldorsson, who plays for a Norwegian club facing a relegation battle, took out Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling in the box after a good ball from Daniel Sturridge. Wayne Rooney, the English captain, lined up to take the kick, and while Halldorsson dived the right way he could not keep it out. The fairy-tale looked to be coming to a close. Iceland had to find a way to score, and England had them on the back foot.

But, like they have been doing all tournament, they found a way. The ball went out of play in a position not normally considered dangerous. Iceland are not a normal team, however. Aron Gunnarsson, who plays for Cardiff City and is the leader of the Icelandic team, trotted over to take the throw. Up came the centre backs, and Kari Arnason and Ragnar Sigurdsson left their posts to add some height to the attack. Gunnarsson ran back and heaved the ball in to the box, where it found the head of Arnason. The Malmo centre back flicked it on, and Ragnar Sigurdsson found his way into a great position to volley into the bottom corner. Iceland were level again, less than two minutes after going behind.

The game had begun with a flurry of activity, but it began to slow down somewhat. England had some good chances through Tottenham Hotspur pair Dele Alli and Harry Kane, but while they had the supremacy their attack was sluggish and they did not look like breaking through. Then Iceland scored again. They tapped the ball around on the edge of the box while England waited, watching. First Gylfi Sigurdsson, the side’s best player, tapped it to Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who flicked it on for Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. Sigthorsson had room to shoot, and while Hart got a hand to his attempt he could not stop it from trailing into the back of the net.

England looked desperate, but they were disorganised and were unable to break down the disciplined Icelandic defence. Halldorsson made some great saves, denying Kane when he found his way into a dangerous position and generally cleaning up anything which the defence missed. The Bodo/Glimt goalkeeper was not being forced to do much, however, as the English attack lacked unity and cohesion. This was one of the first times they had played from behind all tournament, and they didn’t like it. They didn’t like it one bit. Iceland could still find some freedom, and Hart was forced to make an excellent save to deny Ragnar Sigurdsson’s bicycle kick, which was well struck from close range. It would have sealed the match for Iceland, but England survived. They kept pushing for an equaliser, but their chances simply failed to materialise. Alli was in a great position to score, but the ball sailed over the goals. Jamie Vardy, brought on far too late by now-departed English manager Roy Hodgson, was played through. He was in a great position, but Ragnar Sigurdsson made a brilliant tackle to stop him. England tried an aerial attack, and Kane had a great chance, but his header was weak and easily collected by Halldorsson.

No matter what England tried it was not going to work. Iceland looked calm and did not panic, while England were the ones feeling the heat. Halldorsson made a mistake when he came out prematurely to Kane’s injury time corner, but Alli bungled the chance with the last touch of the game. The whistle blew, and it was all over. Iceland’s fairy-tale run continues, and they will face the French in the quarter-finals. They are under no more pressure, and their brilliant system could get them a long way.

Nice – Allianz Riviera
England 1 (Rooney 4 pen)
Iceland 2 (R Sigurdsson 6, Sigthorsson 18)
Referee: Damir Skomina (Svn)

England: Hart – Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Alli, Dier (Wilshere 46), Rooney (Rashford 87); Sturridge, Kane, Sterling (Vardy 60).
Iceland: Halldorsson – Saevarsson, Arnason, R Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, G Sigurdsson, Gunnarsson, B Bjarnason; Sigthorsson (E Bjarnason 77), Bodvarsson (Traustason 89).

Top 5
1. Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland)
Sigurdsson had a great game, and he scored the equaliser for Iceland after England failed to deal with a long throw. His defensive work after Iceland took the lead was key, and his brilliant slide tackle on Jamie Vardy stopped England from getting one-on-one with Halldorsson. He nearly scored again after the break with a bicycle kick, and he was clearly the best player on the field.
2. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland)
Gunnarsson’s long throws proved to be a significant problem for the English defence, who were unable to deal with them. The Icelandic captain was solid in the middle of the park, and he nearly scored on the break when he found himself one-on-one with Hart. He was booked, but he played well and looks to be in good touch.
3. Dele Alli (England)
Alli was able to find plenty of the ball throughout the night, and he was let down by his teammates’ inability to get into good positions. He had some excellent chances, and had his early long-range strike been on target he would have come very close to scoring. He played well, and was England’s best on the night.
4. Birkir Saevarsson (Iceland)
Saevarsson was excellent at right back, stopping plenty of English attacks with his solid tackling. He blocked plenty of shots and crosses, and he was at the top of his game. He had an excellent chance in the second half with his overlapping run down the right-edge, and he was a key factor in Iceland’s solidity at the back.
5. Hannes Halldorsson (Iceland)
Halldorsson gave away an early penalty, and while he was unable to save it he came very close. He made plenty of key saves as Iceland looked to hold on, and his positioning was excellent throughout. He made a minor error as Iceland defended the last corner of the game, but it did not prove to be costly and he will take plenty of confidence from the win.

Substitutes fire as England get key victory

Daniel Sturridge picked up the ball outside the penalty area from Danny Rose. It was injury time, and the score was tied at 1-1. He stood still for a moment, collecting himself and looking for options. Eventually he moved. He played the ball to Jamie Vardy, England’s sole scorer and Leicester’s hero as they triumphed in the Premier League. Vardy did not have much time to react but he flicked it on to Dele Alli. Alli was closed off and dispossessed by a spirited Welsh defence, but Sturridge had run through and was able to collect the ball in a brilliant position. He took a touch, leaving the Welsh defender who came to him floundering, and with a calm finish into the bottom corner he delivered England a come-from-behind victory that sets them up well for the rest of their campaign.

This clash, between England and Wales, was one of the most highly anticipated of the group stage, and there was plenty of feeling between the two sides. Wales went in with plenty of confidence after a first-up victory over Slovakia, but England were able to push them back early. Raheem Sterling should have scored when he found himself with a golden opportunity, a cross from Adam Lallana landing perfectly at his feet. He could not hit the target, showing the poor form and lack of confidence which riddled his Premier League performances with Manchester City. England had other quality chances, and Gary Cahill missed a wonderful opportunity when his marker lost his footing in the box. His header went straight at Hennessey, and it was easily scooped up by the Welsh keeper. England could have had a penalty a few minutes later, but Ben Davies’ handball went unnoticed by the officials. England dominated possession, but while they had some good chances they looked ineffective against the Welsh defence. In the end it was Wales who hit the front, just when it seemed that the sides would go into the interval locked at 0-0.

The goal came from nothing, with a fairly clumsy challenge from Wayne Rooney setting up a free kick from considerable distance for Gareth Bale. In the end, it was not the actions of Bale which were responsible for the goal but those of Joe Hart, whose attempt at a save pushed an easily stopped free kick into the bottom corner. Bale stepped back and put his foot through it, and somehow the English keeper could not push it away from his own goal. The ball trailed into the back of the net off Hart’s hands, and while the goal was down to a keeper error it did not matter for the Welsh. It was the first time Wales had scored against England for 32 years, and they were bound to celebrate.

Roy Hodgson was quick to make changes to his misfiring team at the break, and he removed Sterling and Harry Kane. They were replaced by Vardy and Sturridge, and while Wales continued to hold firm the pair showed initial promise. After about ten minutes, however, the game opened up, and Vardy had scored shortly afterwards. Sturridge’s cross from the left wing found a mass of bodies at the top of the six-yard box, and the ball spilled out to Vardy. It would have been harder for him to miss the goals, and while Wales appealed for offside replays showed that the last touch came off the head of Williams, not an English player. England continued to push, and without the one-goal deficit looming over their heads they played with less pressure. Rooney nearly set up a goal after his free kick bounced around the Welsh penalty area like a pinball, but eventually Eric Dier’s shot was blocked. Sturridge mishit a volley, and Hodgson banked on the youngest player in the tournament, Marcus Rashford, to deliver England a goal. Rooney took a brilliant touch to evade Aaron Ramsey, but was immediately swamped by three Welsh defenders and had his shot blocked.

Wales were fighting hard, and while England still dominated possession they were not finding many genuine scoring chances. Alli threatened to create a goal when he made a beautiful run through the Welsh defence, but his shot was blocked. Cahill’s header went over the bar, and the game looked destined for a draw until Sturridge scored to win them the game. Bale had the last attempt of the match when he was open for a header inside the box, but he missed and England’s triumph was confirmed.

Lens – Stade Bollaert Delelis
England 2 (Vardy 56, Sturridge 90+2)
Wales 1 (Bale 42)
Referee: Felix Brych (Ger)

England (4-3-3): Hart – Walker, Cahill, Smalling, Rose; Alli, Dier, Rooney; Lallana (Rashford 73), Kane (Vardy 46), Sterling (Sturridge 46).
Wales (5-3-2): Hennessey – Gunter, Chester, A Williams, Davies, Taylor; Ledley (Edwards 67), Ramsey, Allen; Robson-Kanu (J Williams 71), Bale.

Top 5
1. Wayne Rooney (England)
Rooney was in control throughout the game, controlling the tempo of England’s attack and distributing the ball from midfield as he saw fit. His corners and free kicks proved a constant threat for the Welsh defence, and he delivered a performance that showed just how good he can be. He had some great chances, and was England’s best player.
2. Dele Alli (England)
Alli played a very strong game in the centre of the park, and he was able to find plenty of space in attack throughout. He was always able to find the ball, and he showed moments of his extraordinary skill with the ball at his feet. He drifted effectively between attack and midfield, and his work in the final third caused plenty of problems for Wales.
3. Ashley Williams (Wales)
Williams made a couple of mistakes during the game, including setting up Jamie Vardy for England’s first goal, but he was solid down back and used his vast international experience to marshal a Welsh defence which was able to stand up to the English pressure for most of the game. Williams fought for every ball, and as captain he set a great example for the rest of his team.
4. Jamie Vardy (England)
Vardy entered the game at half-time, and he had an immediate impact. He injected plenty of pace into the English attack, and he scored roughly 10 minutes after coming on. His pace and positioning in attack turned the game in England’s favour, and he was able to take his chances well. He was one of England’s best, and it would not be a surprise to see him start against Slovakia.
5. Daniel Sturridge (England)
Sturridge scored the winner in injury time, and he was lively throughout the second half. His cross was the catalyst for Vardy’s goal, and he was able to handle the pressure late on when he found himself one-on-one with Hennessey. He had plenty of opportunities, and while some were not as well taken as they could have been he played very well and had a big impact.