KEIR RADNEDGE at WEMBLEY —- England need one more point to reach next year’s World Cup finals – against minnows San Marino on Monday – after seizing a decisive 5-0 win over Albania with all the goals coming in the first half. Harry Kane set a captain’s leadership example with his fourth England hat-trick. Only Jimmy Greaves (six) and Gary Lineker (five) have managed more.

Few England fans at Wembley would have dared hoped for such a clear-cut outcome after the failure to beat Hungary also here at Wembley last month.

England remembers – before kickoff at Wembley

Against Hungary manager Gareth Southgate had abandoned his standard, criticised use of two defensive midfielders but the extra emphasis on attack backfired. Hence this time he reverted to a back three with Chelsea’s marauding fullbacks Reece James and Ben Chilwell flanking a midfield duo of Jordan Henderson and Kalvin Phillips.

Up front were Phil Foden, captain Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling.

Kane, struggling for Premier League goals with Tottenham, has had no such trouble for his country. His three first-half goals took him to 39 in 59 internationals, two more than Wayne Rooney.

England also equalled their modern record of 19 games unbeaten, set in 1965-66. Of course the Euro final counts as a draw even though the Three Lions lost the penalty shootout.

Nine minutes was all it took for England to take lead as Harry Maguire headed home a James free kick after Kane had been brought down.

A lazy, misplaced pass from Kyle Walker gifted Albania a golden chance of an equaliser but the onrunning Myrto Uzuni was foiled by keeper Jordan Pickford, standing up to him.

Injuries and substitutions

Albania had other problems, needing to make two changes through injuries, before England extended their lead in the 18th minute. James and Jordan Henderson tore the wide open for Kane to head his first goal.

Henderson followed up with his first England goal at Wembley, after delicately stepping through the visiting defence in the 28th minute then Sterling set up Kane for No4. England’s captain completed his hat-trick with an acrobatic scissors kick to a right-wing corner by Foden to send England in for the interval leading 5-0.

Kane thus became Kane is the first England player to score a perfect hat-trick – header, left-foot, right-foot – since David Platt in February 1993 against San Marino. The treble lifted him to 44 goals to draw level with Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves and behind only Gary Lineker (48), Sir Bobby Charlton (49) and Wayne Rooney (52).

Albania, who had conceded only seven games in their eight previous ties, put in a more feisty performance in a second half which saw no more goals amid a disruptive string of substitutes.

Southgate sent on Jack Grealish, Tammy Abraham and Jude Bellingham in place of Foden, Kane and Phillips and later there was a first cap for Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe who had only been a late call-up at the start of the week.

An initial crowd of 80,366 had thinned out considerably by what was, for England, a highly satisfying final whistle.

So to Serravalle to play San Marino, sitting 210 and bottom of the world rankings. Surely nothing can go wrong.

The teams:

England: Pickford – Walker, Stones, Maguire – James (Alexander-Arnold 75), Phillips (Bellingham 63), Henderson, Chilwell – Foden (Grealish 63), Kane (Abraham 63), Sterling (Smith Rowe 75).

Albania: Strakosha – Hysaj, Gjasula, Kumbulla (Ddermaku 17), Trashi (Mihaj 46) – Ismajli, Veseli, Bare (Laci 12) – Uzuni (Roshi 85), Cikilieshi, Bajrami (Ramadani 46).

Referee: R Buquet (France). Attendance: 80,366.

World Cup qualifiers (with hosts Qatar):

Europa: Denmark, Germany.

S America: Brazil.