WITH one strike of the boot, Harry Kane blasted away the demons of England’s last two major tournament defeats and became his nation’s greatest goalscorer.
It was Kane’s infamous penalty miss which cost English their chance of dethroning champions France at the World Cup, and it was Roberto Mancini’s Italy who had denied them glory in the Euros final of 2021.
But on a historic night when Gareth Southgate’s men played with an astonishing first-half swagger, Kane’s penalty overhauled Wayne Rooney’s all-time scoring record as ten-man England defeated Italy on their own soil for the first time in 62 years.
Kane might not have wanted it to be a penalty, after his ordeal in Qatar but despite a lengthy VAR check before the spot-kick was awarded for a handball by Giovanni Di Lorenzo, the Tottenham striker held his nerve.
This was a vintage performance from Kane, who weathered a physical buffering from Italy’s central defenders and led from the front – perhaps inspired by his Italian club manager Antonio Conte’s rant at “selfish” Spurs players after a late blow-up at Southampton.
There were outstanding contributions too from Declan Rice, who scored the opener, from Jude Bellingham, who bossed the midfield like no teenager has any right to, and from Bukayo Saka who is absolutely full of it.
The first-half display was certainly England’s best since the 3-2 victory over Spain in Seville in 2018.
And while they had to dig deep to preserve their lead after half-time, especially after Luke Shaw’s red card, this was a statement victory for Southgate’s team.
In the Diego Maradona Stadium, in a city which is a giant shrine to English football’s great Argentinian nemesis, England ultimately won it through a handball – Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s offence allowing Kane his momentous spot-kick.
There are murals, posters, statues, memorabilia all honoring the evil genius who booted Bobby Robson’s 1986 World Cup and led Napoli to the only two Serie A titles in their history.