Harry Kane’s stoppage-time winner ensured England began their World Cup campaign with a win after Tunisia threatened to snatch a point in Volgograd.
Kane scored his second goal with a smart close range reaction header to ensure England’s first win in the opening game of a major tournament since they beat Paraguay in the 2006 World Cup.
England’s captain gave them the reward they deserved for a brilliant start by turning in the opener in the 11th minute.
England were punished for missing a host of chances when Ferjani Sassi equalised from the penalty spot after Kyle Walker was penalised for an elbow on Fakhreddine Ben Youssef.
Tunisia dug in but Kane was the match-winner with a late header from Harry Maguire’s flick, justice being done after referee Wilmar Roldan and the video assistant referee failed to spot him being wrestled to the ground twice in the penalty area.
England play Panama, who lost 3-0 to Belgium, in their next Group G game on Sunday, which kicks off at 1:00.
England boss Gareth Southgate never gave up on his side getting a winner against their defensive opponents.
“Even at 1-1 I was really proud of the performance,” said the manager, whose team join Belgium in claiming maximum points from their first game in the section. “I’ve talked a lot in the weeks leading into this game about performance being key. That’s the bit we can control. There were things in the game we couldn’t control tonight, but we reacted really well to them.
“If it had been 1-1 there would have been a level of disappointment, and the result back home would be viewed differently, but the performance was very good. We created a lot of clear-cut chances in the first half, as many as I remember, and have to be more ruthless with those. But we recovered from a harsh decision, kept our composure, then kept our patience in the second half and looked for good opportunities rather than throwing the ball into the box and hoping. There was wave after wave of attack and we weren’t hit on the counter, so I liked the controlled manner in which we defended.
“We had leaders on the field who kept delivering the right messages. We spoke this morning and covered being behind and in front in games, how we’d react being 1-1 with 15 minutes to go, and we had to keep probing and look for the win while not exposing ourselves on the counter … Maybe you run out of time, but we kept doing the right things and making good decisions. And good teams score late.”