By Jack Wilkinson
England 2-1 Croatia: Harry Kane scores dramatic late winner
Report and highlights as Croatia are relegated from Group A4
Last Updated: 19/11/18 8:02am
Harry Kane sealed a stunning late comeback as England booked their place in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals with a 2-1 victory over Croatia at a rejoicing Wembley.
Two goals in the final 12 minutes from Jesse Lingard (78) and captain Kane (85) sparked scenes of wild celebrations as Gareth Southgate's men relegated their World Cup semi-final conquerors.
England were staring relegation in the face themselves when Andrej Kramaric opened the scoring to punish the Three Lions for a host of missed first-half chances.
But a dramatic turnaround sees England finish ahead of Spain at the top of Group A4, with a place in the inaugural Nations League finals next summer in Portugal secured.
England: Pickford (6), Walker (6), Stones (7), Gomez (7), Chilwell (7), Dier (7), Barkley (6), Delph (7), Sterling (7), Rashford (7), Kane (8).
Subs: Lingard (7), Sancho (6), Alli (6).
Croatia: Kalinic (7), Vida (6), Vrsaljko (4), Lovren (6), Jedvaj (6), Modric (7), Brozovic (6), Vlasic (7), Rebic (6), Perisic (6), Kramaric (7).
Subs: Milic (6), Brekalo (5), Rog (n/a).
Man of the Match: Harry Kane.
England dominated the first half but only after a defensive scare on three minutes. Jordan Pickford was charged down while clearing a Fabian Delph back pass, presenting Ante Rebic with an open goal, but the Croatia forward blazed over from 18 yards.
The spotlight quickly shifted from Pickford to his counterpart Lovre Kalinic, though, who was confronted by an England barrage.
Raheem Sterling's near post drive was tipped behind by the Croatia goalkeeper on 12 minutes, and, from the resulting corner, John Stones' flick fell for Kane, but he fired over from three yards.
The twinkle toes and vision of Delph released Sterling through on goal four minutes later. He was clattered by Kalinic but the ball fell for Kane, who saw a shot cleared off the line by Tin Jedvaj, before Kalinic got back to his feet to block the England captain's attempted rebound.
Having comfortably saved a shot from Kramaric, the quick thinking of Pickford released Rashford on the counter, only for Jedvaj to recover just before the Manchester United forward could pull the trigger.
Ben Chilwell was next to test Kalinic with a dipping volley from a corner before Ivan Perisic lashed over at the near post, after Kramaric had bundled his way into the area.
England made three changes to the side that beat Spain in Seville as Manchester City trio Kyle Walker, John Stones and Fabian Delph started. Marcelo Brozovic was drafted into the Croatian midfield in the absence of the injured Ivan Rakitic.
Ross Barkley and Perisic both spurned chances to break the deadlock before half-time and Sterling miscued a shot having been played through on goal by Rashford early in the second half.
But England paid the price for a catalogue of missed chances as, within 12 minutes of the restart, Nikola Vlasic's cut back found Kramaric, who swerved one way and then the other before firing a shot into Pickford's top-right corner, via a deflection off Eric Dier.
That left England needing two goals to avoid relegation. The first came via a long Joe Gomez throw that was flicked on to Lingard, who simply converted from a yard out.
Captain Kane completed the turnaround with a sliding finish from Chilwell's free-kick to leave Wembley rejoicing at the end of a fine year for English football.
- England have won four of their last five matches (D1), having won just one of their six before that (D1 L4).
- This was Croatia's first defeat against England since September 2009, when they lost 5-1 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley.
- Harry Kane ended a run of 747 minutes without an England goal, scoring his first goal since his penalty against Colombia at the World Cup; this was his 20th England goal.
- Jesse Lingard's goal for England was their first goal via a throw-in since May 2014 (Daniel Sturridge v Peru).
- Andrej Kramaric scored with Croatia's first shot on target of the match.
- Jesse Lingard has scored as many goals in his last two England matches (2) as he managed in his first 20 caps for the Three Lions.
- England have won 15 of their last 16 competitive matches at Wembley (L1).
- This was England's 17th game in 2018 - their joint-most matches in a calendar year, also playing 17 times in 1966.
Gareth Southgate: "I am very proud of what the players have done, not just today, but throughout the whole year. People can see the spirit and I have not heard Wembley like that for a long time. We dictated a lot of the game and had some good chances but after we let in a soft goal it was a real test of resilience and patience."
Zlatko Dalic: "It was very difficult for us to recover after the match against Spain. We don't have such a big squad. In the last 15 minutes we lost concentration, which could be down to our condition physically. England have a young and fast team. It's coming home, very soon."
Man of the Match - Harry Kane
Who else?! When England need a goal you want a chance to fall to Kane, whatever form he's in - whether that be without a goal in 747 minutes or not. Kane's first goal since the last-16 victory over Colombia simply couldn't have come at a better time. Undeterred from seeing his first three efforts on target fail to find the back of the net, the England captain was in the right place at the right time, as he so often is, to score his 20th international goal, of which few have been more important.