International Football

Harry KaneHarry Kane had a tough night up against Italy's Giorgio Chiellini on his first England start. Photograph: Carl Recine/Action Images via Reuters

In hindsight, the writing had been on the wall from this game’s opening exchange. Only 16 seconds had elapsed when Jordan Henderson collected in midfield, spied Harry Kane apparently free of Giorgio Chiellini’s shackles and pinged a pass into the striker’s path. The Tottenham Hotspur forward had a yard of space in which to gather and weigh up his options but, instantly, Chiellini was on him. Illegally, as it happens, but the tone had still been set. A bodycheck to start, a reality check to follow.

Scoring within two minutes of his debut against a beaten and tiring Lithuania is one thing but this was Italy. Admittedly a much changed Azzurri from their own competitive fixture in Bulgaria last Saturday, from which they had made eight alterations, but a starting lineup offering steel and needle. A side who retain some of the streetwise qualities the other teams traipsing in behind the English in Group E of Euro 2016 qualifying clearly lack. Chiellini was winning his 76th cap and had been primed to leave an early impression on the upstart from White Hart Lane. Kane juddered and fell upon impact. By the time he had picked himself up he had a clearer idea what awaited in Turin.

Related: Italy 1-1 England | Friendly international match report

Kane will be stronger for this experience, even if he had to cede the role of national saviour to his club-mate, Andros Townsend, once the hosts’ authority had been eroded by a blur of substitutions. The fairytale the forward has been living of late would have had his skimmed shot in stoppage time screaming beyond Gianluigi Buffon and in, but this script was to be more believable than his mind-boggling rise to prominence. When Chiellini, Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Ranocchia were focused, Kane had run aground on a rugged backline. “They’re three very experienced, tough defenders, ” said Roy Hodgson, whose juggling of personnel eventually struck on proper support for his forward. “ut it’s been a good 10 days for Harry. He’s scored on his debut and played 90 minutes of a tough game. He’ll benefit a lot from that.”


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