Harry Kane became England’s all-time record goalscorer as they opened their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a first victory in Italy since 1961.
Kane wrote his name into the history books in the 44th minute when he beat Gianluigi Donnarumma from the penalty spot for his 54th goal, overtaking previous record holder Wayne Rooney.
Declan Rice gave England an early lead when he scored from close range after Kane’s shot was blocked before the captain put memories of his penalty miss against France in the World Cup quarter-final in Qatar aside with an emphatic spot-kick.
Italy, whistled off at half-time in their first international in Naples for a decade, improved as England became sloppy.
Debutant Mateo Retegui was the beneficiary of poor work from Harry Maguire, whose failed attempt to close down the danger on the edge of the box allowed the Italians to shift the ball to the 23-year-old to drill an unerring finish past Jordan Pickford after 56 minutes.
England’s drop in performance was compounded by Luke Shaw’s second yellow card with 10 minutes left but they hung on for a vital win.
England show two sides
England’s first-half display was consummate in its control, Italy made to look decidedly average as Rice and Jude Bellingham controlled affairs and Kane made history.
The only blot was a dreadful miss by Jack Grealish that would have made it 3-0 and surely avoided the anxious second-half showing that followed.
Italy were still in the hunt, just, and after what would surely have been some choice half-time words from coach Roberto Mancini they came out fighting in the second half.
Their cause was helped by an England performance barely recognisable from the first half, the visitors conceding control as well as the goal that set up a tense finish.
Shaw’s dismissal did little to help England’s cause late on. The defender picked up the first of his two yellow cards in the 78th minute for time-wasting when preparing to take a throw-in and the second came just two minutes later for a mis-timed challenged on Retegui.
Italy, however, lacked the quality to make England pay the price and in the end their Euro 2024 campaign got off to the ideal start.
England now have the chance to build on these three points when they face Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday.
England win in subdued Naples
The theory was that Italy’s football authorities chose the ramshackle but hugely atmospheric Stadio Diego Armando Maradona to make life uncomfortable for England.
In practice, there were empty seats inside this vast bowl and Italy’s poor first half meant that it took until after the break for the home support to come to life.
It had been suggested Napoli’s fans struggle to form an attachment with the Italy team and their silence throughout the first half and reaction at half time suggested they could hardly wait to get back to throwing their passion and fire behind their own team as they run away with Serie A and chase the Champions League.
The subdued mood played into England’s hands, Gareth Southgate’s side only making life difficult for themselves with their own indifferent showing that almost allowed Italy back in.