Gareth Southgate hails ‘outstanding' record-breaker Harry Kane
Gareth Southgate praised Harry Kane for his quality, mentality and professionalism after becoming England’s all-time top scorer in Thursday’s 2-1 win at reigning European champions Italy.
The 29-year-old equalled Wayne Rooney’s 53-goal national record haul by scoring from the spot in their World Cup quarter-final against France in Qatar just 103 days ago.
But that night is best remembered for Kane missing his second spot-kick in a disappointing last-eight exit, making his historic strike in Thursday’s European qualifier in Naples all the sweeter.
Declan Rice scored before the skipper lashed home a penalty to become the first man ever to score 54 goals for England, who held on for a 2-1 win after Mateo Retegui’s goal and a late Luke Shaw red card.
“Well, firstly his overall performance tonight was outstanding,” England boss Southgate said of record-breaking Kane. “I thought he really dominated the centre-backs, his link play was really good.
“You could see right from the beginning of the game he was really on it.
“To break the record in the manner he did given the recent history was an indication of his strength of character and his mentality.
“I couldn’t be happier for him and his family. They’re lovely people.
“He is a brilliant professional and to do it as quickly as he has with still a lot of his career to come is an incredible achievement.
“Huge credit to him. The players gave him a brilliant reception afterwards and I think that was a response to both the record and what he’s just had to recover from as well.”
Kane addressed the players after the match, with Southgate saying players and staff recognised “this was a very special moment and a historic moment.”
The England boss said “he deserves every bit of praise he’s going to get” after a memorable night at the dilapidated Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
England’s first away win in Italy since 1961 was the ideal start to European qualification, with the Group C triumph seeing Southgate become just the third manager to oversee 50 victories.
“We showed two sides without a doubt,” Southgate said. “We had great control from the back in the first half and whenever we broke through that first line of pressure we looked really dangerous.
“And, frankly, we should have had the game buried. It should have been 3-0 at half-time.
“If you start any half of football the way we started the second, you’re going to be in trouble and we concede a really poor goal. Several errors in the lead up to it, decisions.
“And then of course, the emotion of the whole evening changes.
“You are giving the crowd a lift, you are giving the opposition a lift. You have got to deal with momentum.
“We then have to deal with going down to 10 but actually I think we found a way we could be as compact as we could with extra energy to deal with that.
“So, yeah, in the end they can reference something they have had to grind and dig in away from home, which is hugely important and given our record here is a massive result.
“But equally, we would prefer more of the first half than the second!”
As for Italy, manager Roberto Mancini praised “complete striker” Kane for his goal on a frustrating night for his side in Naples.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult game, then we conceded two goals from two set pieces,” the former Manchester City boss said. “We should have been more careful.
“We dominated in the second half and probably deserved a draw.
“We’re disappointed with the result but we still have a long way to go.
“In the second half we managed to press better, higher and I saw a great team again: this gives us hope.
“England are always dangerous from set pieces but we shouldn’t have conceded those two goals. We still managed to roll up our sleeves and play better.
“The road is a bit of an uphill climb now, but maybe it will finish more smoothly.”