England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

England's players celebrate their side's second goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2018
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England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.


Virat Kohli savors first India win over Australia Down Under for a decade

Updated 10 December 2018
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Virat Kohli savors first India win over Australia Down Under for a decade

  • India's last triumph on Australian soil at the WACA in Perth in 2008
  • Kohli confident win sets tourists up for a series win.

ADELAIDE: Virat Kohli said it was “very special” to captain India to their first Test win in Australia for a decade and gave his side crucial momentum in their bid for a maiden series victory.
The visitors won a tightly-contested opening Test in Adelaide by 31 runs on the fifth day after setting Australia a target of 323, which would have been a record run chase at the ground.
It was a big breakthrough for Kohli’s men, with their last triumph on Australian soil at the WACA Ground in Perth in 2008. In Adelaide, their sole previous win was in 2003.
“Obviously it’s a great feeling. We’ve never taken a lead in a series in Australia, something that for us is a huge boost,” he said.
“And it’s given us the right momentum that we needed to play a big series like this and it’s something that we’ve had to work hard for.
“Any Test victory is special because you work hard over five days, and then the physical and the mental toil and the emotion of it all comes together in a result is a very special feeling.”
Kohli, who has long led India’s batting charge with admirable consistency across all three formats but failed to fire in Adelaide, said he believed his team collectively were better than Australia and deserved to win.
The victory was built on Cheteshwar Pujara’s first innings 123 and his second innings 71, while wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant took a world record-equalling 11 catches.
“It was priceless from Pujara, we were down and out at lunch on day one. His grit and determination brought us back in it,” said Kohli.
“We always knew that runs on the board would make the home side tentative. Any lead was gold and we got 15. In the second innings again, he and Rahane batted well.”
Asked if thought 323 would be enough to win, Kohli said his middle and lower order could have done better after a five for 25 collapse at the end of the second innings.
“We could have added another 30-35 runs more which could have taken the game totally beyond Australia,” he said.
“So these are things that we have to think about going to Perth, but if someone had told me before the series that I would be 1-0 up as soon we started the series, I would have taken it with both hands.”
The second Test starts on Friday in Perth, with Melbourne and Sydney to follow.