Harry Kane scores belter for England against Poland but Robert Lewandowski has last laugh in striker duel

Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane went head to head as Poland hosted England in Warsaw  (REUTERS)
Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane went head to head as Poland hosted England in Warsaw (REUTERS)

In the battle of two of the world’s great strikers, Harry Kane was on target – but Robert Lewandowski had the final say.

The Poland captain may have failed to find the back of the net for the first time this season but it was his cross that set up Damian Szymanski’s stoppage-time equaliser.

A 1-1 draw does little to harm England’s progress towards the World Cup – even if the manner of the two dropped points will be of particular frustration to Gareth Southgate.

The Three Lions had weathered first-half pressure, been the better side in the second half and took the lead in the 72nd minute through Kane.

It was almost as if Lewandowski gave him the idea.

England’s captain, no doubt frustrated by a lack of goalscoring opportunities, decided to try his luck from distance.

It was a ferocious, dipping, swerving effort from 32 yards that an unsighted Wojciech Szczesny was slow to react to.

Moments earlier Lewandowski tried similar, failing to get any power on a low drive that was easily collected by Jordan Pickford.

In this battle of two of the world’s best finishers, it was Kane who scored in his 15th consecutive World Cup or European Championship qualifier.

England remain comfortably clear at the top of Group I - and so the man who is so desperate to challenge for major silverware at club level may once again look to his country as his greatest chance of success.

How Lewandowski must crave to be surrounded by such quality when wearing Poland’s shirt.

The 33-year-old has won everything with Bayern Munich but it is a different story with his country, where he stands out as the only world-class player at coach Paulo Sousa’s disposal.

Compare that to England, who have been without an array of attacking talent that includes Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood, yet still started this match with £100million Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Kane up front.

For all of Southgate’s embarrassment of riches going forward, Kane remains his most important player – as demonstrated once again in Warsaw.

Yet Lewandowski has the power to lift those around him and so he did with his composure to lift a cross onto the head of Szymanski that sent the home crowd wild.

Defensive record must wait

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

The late strike prevented England from setting a new record of 12 clean sheets in a calendar year and leaves them level with the World Cup winners of 1966.

Pickford’s expression as he walked off the pitch demonstrated his own frustration.

England had done so well to withstand Poland’s pressure in the first 45 minutes and looked far more in control after the break.

Yet the record will surely go with games against Andorra, San Marino and Albania still to come before the year is out.

And there can be little doubt that Southgate has found his strongest rearguard in Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw.

That quartet provide a balance the national team has not seen since the Golden Generation of Gary Neville, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry and Ashley Cole.

No matter how frustrating the late goal was, this is a defence to build a World Cup challenge upon.

England answer questions

 (The FA via Getty Images)
(The FA via Getty Images)

The challenge from Southgate was clear at the start of this international window: Prove you can go again.

It is never easy to predict how a team will react to success.

England may not have won the Euros, but to reach a first final since 1966 was something to celebrate – even if they did ultimately suffer the heartache of penalty shootout defeat to Italy.

Would they lick their wounds or come back even more determined to go one better next time?

If these first three games post -Euros are anything to go by, England are hungry for more.

There is no sense of resting on their laurels.

They could not quite make it a perfect three out of three, but seven points from a round of fixtures that included their two toughest away games in the group is an impressive return.

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