NAPLES, Italy (AP) — Harry Kane became England’s leading scorer of all time on Thursday — and his record-setting goal just had to come from the penalty spot.
Kane tugged on his England jersey and roared with delight in an emotional celebration after converting a spot kick during the 2-1 win over Italy in European Championship qualifying.
It was his 54th goal for the national team, one more than Wayne Rooney.
And the nature of the goal wasn’t lost on the Tottenham striker.
“It had to be a penalty, of course,” Kane said, a nod to him missing from the spot late in a 2-1 loss to France in the World Cup quarterfinals last year.
Rooney scored his 53 England goals from 2003-2018. Kane made his England debut in 2015 and has reached the landmark having played 39 fewer games than his fellow striker.
“I knew it wouldn’t take long but that was quick,” tweeted Rooney, who is still Manchester United’s record scorer. “Great man, unbelievable goalscorer and an England legend. Congrats Harry.”
Kane recalled being on the field when Rooney became England’s record scorer himself, surpassing Bobby Charlton’s tally of 49.
“I remember when I presented him the boot for breaking the record,” Kane said, “and he said, ‘I’ll be giving this back to you one day.’ It’s just a special night.”
It was a matter of when, not if, Kane would become England’s outright leading scorer. He is 29 and pretty much in his prime as an all-round striker who can drop deep to link up play or be further upfield as an out-and-out center forward.
He is on the path to becoming perhaps England’s greatest player, having already won the Golden Boot award at the 2018 World Cup for being top scorer at the tournament.
“Just a huge thanks to all the players, all the staff, the fans, my wife and family back home, everyone who has helped me get to this stage,” said Kane, who scored on his England debut. “It’s a magical moment.”
His latest penalty was awarded following a VAR review after it was determined that Italy defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo touched the ball with his hand while attempting to prevent Kane from reaching a cross.
Kane stepped up to the spot and sent Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way as he drilled a shot inside the right post in the 44th minute.
That put England ahead 2-0 going into the break at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium and the team held on for a statement win, three months after a heartbreaking exit from the World Cup.
“The World Cup, it was obviously a difficult way to end. It wasn’t nice to finish it that way but we spoke this week about getting back to it,” Kane said. “We feel like we are one of the best teams in Europe and we have to keep knocking on the door.
“We are getting close. To put in a performance like that today, it shows we are ready for the next challenge.” ___