England’s star striker and skipper Harry Kane struck in added time to give The Three Lions a very slim victory over Slovenia to secure top spot in Group F and a place at next year’s World Cup in Russia.
The visitors, Managed by former Yugoslav International Srecko Katanec, put up a stern fight at Wembley and thought they had done enough to earn a point, but instead effectively tumbled out of the Race to Russia.
However, for England it is party time as they have now won their last six World Cup Qualifying Groups, are unbeaten in their last 16 Qualifiers and more importantly, can start marking June 14, 2018, in their Diaries.
Ahead of the tie, Gareth Southgate made two changes to the Side that overcame Slovakia at Wembley last month as the Manchester City duo of Raheem Sterling and John Stones replaced Dele Alli and injured Phil Jones.
Interestingly, the former Middlesbrough Boss opted to utilize winger Sterling in the No10 role, filling in for Alli who was suspended for making an explicit gesture in the aforementioned Slovakia victory.
Meanwhile, Srecko Katanec decided on four switches to the Team that thrashed Lithuania 4-0 last time out with Aljaz Struna replacing Nejc Skubic, Bojan Jokic coming in for Mitja Viler, Roman Bezjak replacing Jasmin Kurtic and Rene Krhin coming in for Jan Repas.
The obvious danger man up-front for the visitors was Josip Ilicic and he would pull the strings early on for his Side as they had the best of the play.
After some early England pressure through Marcus Rashford, Slovenia started to break as Joe Hart was beaten to it by Ilicic and brought the forward down, but Referee Felix Zwayer was not interested in the penalty appeals.
The feisty affair was soon heating up with Krhin’s slightly over the top tackle on Jordan Henderson sparking a feud, however, at Half-Time the Wembley faithful was left frustrated with a dire Game and a poor Three Lions performance on such a vital night.
However, the second period would offer much more for both Sides in the way of goalmouth action. Most notably in the early part for Rashford, who was played in by Sterling on the break only to see his chip fly of Jan Oblak’s head and be cleared.
Sterling himself was denied converting a rebound involving Kane by an astonishing block by skipper Bostjan Cesar, then it would be role reversal as Kane fired just wide on the rebound from Sterling.
Despite this, there would be one the last chance for the Slovenians to shock England, a brilliant squandered opportunity.
Tim Matavz was played in and beaten to the ball by Hart, who quickly sprang back to his feet despite being hurt to deny Struna with a wondrous save.
The actions of the recently criticised Hart would prove heroic and decisive on the night that he become England’s third highest capped keeper.
The way was now clear for Kane to mark his new-found Captaincy with a moment of magic to send Wembley into hysterics.
Former Spurs teammate Kyle Walker made excellent ground down the right side before delivering a low teasing delivery that found the outstretched leg of Kane and trickled in via Oblak to book England’s place at Russia 2018.
The 94th-minute winner would prove to be enough to separate the two Sides, and force Slovenia to rely on a win and a prayer against Scotland on Sunday to try to knick a Play-Off spot.
The Three Lions face no such problems and will treat Sunday’s trip to Lithuania as a victory parade and a chance for Southgate to experiment, there will now be plenty of time for that before England find the right formula for Russia 2018 success.