England reached the Round of 16 as they coasted to a 6-1 win over Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday. THT takes a look at three players who shined the most in the game.
The Three Lions were quick off the blocks as they grabbed the lead after just eight minutes through John Stones, who evaded his marker to head in a thumping header past Jaime Penedo. Panama subsequently created a few half chances, but it was England who grabbed the second goal after Fidel Escobar brought Jesse Lingard down in his own box.
Harry Kane converted the resulting penalty in emphatic fashion, powering the ball into the top right corner. Lingard would then go on to grab his first World Cup goal as he scored from 25 yards out, before England were four to the good soon after. Stones scored his second of the game, showing true poacher’s instinct after Raheem Sterling’s header was parried by Penedo.
Kane would then complete his hat-trick with a goal each either side of half-time as England hit Panama for a six. But, there was enough time for some history to be made as Felipe Baloy scored Los Canaleros’ first-ever World Cup goal. As would happen in such a huge win, there were plenty of top performers for England, but we pick out the three who shined the most.
It wasn’t his best performance by any means, but Harry Kane will take a hat-trick any which way it comes. The first saw him show nerves of steel as he calmly slotted the penalty into the top left corner after he got delayed by VAR interference and those by the Panamanian players.
He then played a big part as England scored their fourth goal as it was his header that reached Sterling before Stones ultimately put the ball into the back of the net. Another penalty came his way when he was first fouled inside the Panama box, and Kane scored from the spot yet again.
Kane then completed his hat-trick in the most fortuitous fashion as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s long-range effort was deflected into the goal by his heel. The Real Madrid target has now scored in each of his last five games for England, as well as every game in which he’s been captain.
There’s a cherry on top as well – Kane is now leading the Golden Boot race with five goals, as he continues to lead the new-look England side with swagger and confidence.
The 2017-18 season had been one of promise and despair for John Stones. He was a pivotal figure for Manchester City as they created a near-unassailable lead in the first half of the season. But, an untimely injury effectively ended his campaign as he could never really manage to reclaim his place as a regular in the first-team setup upon recovering.
So, it goes without saying that the young defender needs a strong World Cup campaign to storm back into contention for Pep Guardiola, and that is exactly what has happened. Stones has showed his leadership abilities at the back, keeping the England backline well organised.
On the other end of the pitch, the outing against Panama showed that he is growing as a threat in set-piece situations as well. The couple of goals he scored on Sunday were his first two in England colours, and he couldn’t really have picked a better time to open his account for the national side. Onwards and upwards it is for Stones.
Sterling created a big impact on the day, and was hard to contain with his mazy runs in what was a critic-defying performance. But, he is extremely unlucky to miss out today, as there was one more player who was better than him against Panama – Jesse Lingard.
Quite easily the best player for England in the first half, Lingard was a constant threat in and around the Panama box with his deceptive movement and enterprising runs. It was one such run that forced Fidel Escobar to barge him down for the first penalty that Kane scored from, but there was a bigger moment waiting for him.
His long-range curler in the 36th minute is one of the most beautiful scored at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with Lingard exchanging a slick one-two with Sterling before unleashing his shot. Unsurprisingly, it was followed up by one of his trademark showboating celebrations – he had earned every bit of it.