England 5 Albania 0
England captain Harry Kane plundered a hat-trick before half-time in a 5-0 hammering of sorry Albania at Wembley on Friday to all but guarantee his side's spot in next year's World Cup finals in Qatar.
Two draws in their last three Group I matches for Gareth Southgate’s team had opened the door slightly ajar for chasing Poland in the qualification race, but Kane slammed it shut in memorable fashion as he moved level in fourth place on England’s all-time scoring list.
Defender Harry Maguire settled any early nerves with a ninth-minute headed opener before Kane's spree began when he headed in from close range in the 18th.
With Albania in disarray Jordan Henderson weaved his way through to make it 3-0 before Kane powered in his second from a tight angle and then completed his fourth England hat-trick with a stunning overhead kick on the stroke of halftime.
It moved him level on 44 goals for the national team with former Tottenham Hotspur great Jimmy Greaves who died in September.
The second half was a non-event but the fans cared not as with one match remaining England have 23 points to Poland’s 20 and a far better goal difference ahead of the formality of a trip to group whipping boys San Marino on Monday.
Albania’s capitulation ended their slender hopes of grabbing a playoff spot as they are now five points behind Poland.
Northern Ireland 1 Lithuania 0
Northern Ireland got their first competitive win at Windsor Park in two and a half years as they edged out Lithuania 1-0 on Friday night.
After World Cup hopes were ended last month this was a much brighter performance from Ian Baraclough’s men in their penultimate qualifier, but old problems in front of goal remained as despite Northern Ireland bossing play only Benas Satkus’s 18th-minute own goal separated the sides.
The win moves Baraclough’s men back up to third in Group C, above Bulgaria who face Switzerland in their final fixture on Monday when Northern Ireland take on Italy.
This was Northern Ireland’s first competitive win here since they beat Belarus 2-1 in Euro 2020 qualifying in March 2019, and first of any kind since the 1-0 friendly win over Luxembourg the following September, both of them under Michael O’Neill.