Having kicked off the road to Qatar with a straightforward 5-0 triumph against San Marino, the Three Lions headed to Tirana for their final match on foreign soil before what they hope will be a Euro 2020 last-16 tie.
England overcame a sluggish start to win 2-0 against well-drilled Albania, with Kane’s first international goal since November 2019 and a fine Mason Mount effort seeing them take control Group I ahead of Poland’s visit.
And captain Kane was pleased with the performance as the Three Lions made it six points from six.
He said: “I thought it was a really good performance, it is never easy coming away from home against a tough side.
“Maybe a little bit slow to start, we changed our formation halfway through the first half and that definitely helped, we got more runners into the box, more attacking play and getting a goal before the break was great.
“I thought we controlled the second half, they didn’t create too many chances, so overall a good night.”
Kane ended a six-game scoring drought for his country, but was never worried.
He added: “I have always said as a striker, sometimes you go through spells where everything you touch goes in and sometimes it just doesn’t go your way, I think I had a few off the line in that spell and an offside goal that I don’t think was offside.
“That is part of being a striker, you just have to stay focused on doing your job for the team and thankfully we did that as a team and it is great to get the three points.”
Luke Shaw was among six changes for Sunday’s qualifier and marked his first appearance since September 2018 with a fine cross that Kane expertly headed home towards the end of a drab first half.
The England skipper rattled the crossbar soon after and Phil Foden saw an effort tipped onto the post in the early stages of the second half.
Southgate’s men settled the contest in the 63rd minute as Kane put through Mount to superbly curl the ball home as the visitors capitalised on a poor error by Albania defender Berat Djimsiti.
This encounter was exactly 20 years on from England’s last match in Albania, where the hosts made life uncomfortable during the opening exchanges.
Edoardo Reja’s organised and hungry side forced a 13th-minute mistake that they should have done better from. Mount’s wayward pass was picked off and Albania broke, but Myrto Uzuni poorly blazed over Nick Pope’s goal from the edge of the box.
John Stones, making his second international start in a matter of days, had headed from a corner shortly before that warning shot for an England side struggling to build play on the stodgy Air Albania Stadium pitch.
Impressive defending was compounding the visitors’ lack of creativity, with Kyle Walker’s hopeful long-range effort summing up the Three Lions’ growing desperation.
But Southgate’s men always had the quality to hurt the side 66th in the world rankings and pulled ahead in the 38th minute.
Returning Shaw curled over a fine first-time cross from the left that Kane stretched to meet with a superb header that found the bottom right-hand corner.
England nearly added another within four minutes. Raheem Sterling bent over a lovely right-footed cross from the same area, with Kane getting ahead of Hysen Memolla at the far post and striking off the crossbar.
Neither side made half-time changes and Southgate’s men returned on the front foot, hitting the woodwork again in the 52nd minute.
Sterling kept his cool under pressure and laid back for Manchester City team-mate Foden to hit a low left-footed shot that Albania goalkeeper Etrit Berisha tipped onto the post.
Walker saw a fizzing cross cleared and Kane mishit an effort from a corner as England looked to put the match to bed, which they managed to do in the 63rd minute.
Djimsiti’s attempted pass out from the back only succeeded in finding Sterling, who prodded the ball onto Kane. The England skipper played a lovely ball through to Mount and the Chelsea midfielder coolly curled home.
Kane was bemused to be booked when challenging Albania’s defence to turn home from close range and would see a shot deflect wide in stoppage time.
But the match had long since petered out on a night when Pope did not have to deal with a serious threat on goal.
Shaw provided an assist on his England return and was happy with how his evening turned out.
He said: “I am very happy to win on my first game back. Gareth (Southgate) said it before that we are really on to clean sheets at the moment and we got one. The pitch at times was very difficult, but we got what we wanted.
“The last two years I have regretted not being able to take my chances when I had them.”
Albania: Berisha, Hysaj, Ismajli, Djimsiti, Veseli, Laci (Ramadani 89), Bare (Memushaj 71), Memolla (Gjasula 59), Uzuni, Cikalleshi (Manaj 59), Broja (Lenjani 59). Unused substitutes: Ajeti, Doka, Hoxhallari, Kallaku, Selmani, Strakosha, Kamberi.
England: Pope, Walker, Maguire, Stones, Shaw, Mount, Phillips(Ward-Prowse 71), Rice, Foden(Lingard 81), Kane, Sterling. Unused substitutes: Johnstone, James, Mings, Henderson, Chilwell, Coady, Calvert-Lewin, Watkins, Trippier, Bellingham.
Referee: Orel Grinfeeld (Israel)
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