England 1-0 Slovenia: Captain Harry Kane hits late winner as England qualify for World Cup
By Patrick Surlis
Last Updated: 06/10/17 9:59pm
England captain Harry Kane scored a late winner as Gareth Southgate's side beat Slovenia 1-0 at Wembley to qualify for the 2018 World Cup with a game to spare.
England only needed two points from their final two matches - with a trip to Lithuania to come on Sunday - but took all three thanks to Kane's 94th-minute intervention.
The result means England have not lost in their last 20 World Cup qualifiers - a run that stretches back eight years - and they have topped their World Cup qualification group for the sixth time in succession.
Southgate's side, 13th in the FIFA rankings and 38 places above opponents Slovenia, dominated possession but struggled to create and ceded the first opportunity to the visitors, with Josip Ilicic's penalty appeal turned down after contact was made by Joe Hart.
The talented Slovenian forward then teed up Roman Bezjak, who miscued his finish on the volley as the away team threatened to cause the upset they required to keep their own World Cup hopes alive.
England: Hart (6), Walker (6), Stones (6), Cahill (6), Bertrand (6), Henderson (5), Dier (5), Oxlade-Chamberlain (5), Sterling (5), Rashford (7), Kane (7)
Subs: Lingard (6), Keane (6)
Slovenia: Oblak (7), Struna (6), Mevlja (6), Cesar (6), Jokic (6), Bezjak (6), Krhin (5), Rotman (6), Verbic (6), Ilicic (7), Sporar (6)
Subs: Birsa (6), Matavz (6), Repas (6)
Man of the match: Harry Kane
England's best chance of the first half fell to Jordan Henderson but Atletico Madrid 'keeper Jan Oblak got down well to keep out the midfielder's low effort.
The Slovenia stopper was beaten just after the hour mark but Marcus Rashford's tame chip was cleared by Miha Mevlja.
Gareth Southgate made two changes from the 2-1 win over Slovakia in September as John Stones replaced the injured Phil Jones and Raheem Sterling came in for the suspended Dele Alli.
The close call energised a previously lethargic England and they went close again when a remarkable double block by Slovenia captain Bostjan Cesar denied Raheem Sterling.
Kane then dragged an effort wide before smart goalkeeping by Hart prevented substitute Tim Matavz from putting the visitors ahead on the counter.
And Tottenham forward Kane, auditioning for the captaincy on a regular basis, did his chances of keeping the armband no harm with a clinical low finish from Kyle Walker's delivery in stoppage time to ensure England will be in Russia next year.
Gareth Southgate: "We would have liked to have played more fluidly and scored more goals. We played a team that made it really difficult to create chances.
"We are having to find a way of winning by being a bit more savvy because we are not flowing with the ball. But we do have goalscorers."
Srecko Katanec: "Congratulations to England, they maybe not deserved this victory but they scored a goal.
"I wish them luck at the World Cup. My players deserve congratulations as well, they played a decent game and can be proud."
Man of the match - Harry Kane
Kane's superb September form is continuing into October.
He was some way short of his best at Wembley - like most of his team-mates - but still popped up to decide the match with a sharp run and tidy finish by the impressive Slovenia goalkeeper Oblak.
The calls to give him the captain's armband on a permanent basis will only grow ahead of next year's tournament.
England conclude their qualifying campaign away to Lithuania on Sunday and with their place at the World Cup already secure, Southgate may opt to experiment.
Meanwhile, Slovenia host Scotland in what will be a crunch final qualifier with a play-off place on the line.