England toiled before putting away 190th-ranked Malta 4-0 in World Cup qualifying on Friday, with striker Harry Kane scoring two of four second-half goals to help the team stay two points clear in Group F.
England\’s lead remained unchanged with three qualifiers left because second-place Slovakia beat Slovenia 1-0 in Trnava thanks to a bundled close-range goal by Adam Nemec in the 81st minute.
In a potentially defining game on Monday, England hosts Slovakia at Wembley Stadium.
Kane has just gone through his trademark goal drought in August — he hasn\’t scored in 12 Premier League games that month for Tottenham — but he got off the mark this season on the first day of September.
The top scorer for the past two seasons in the Premier League collected a short pass from club teammate Dele Alli in the area and slotted home a finish from 10 meters in the 53rd minute, for his ninth international goal in 20 appearances.
Left back Ryan Bertrand scored from 25 meters in the 86th minute, from a shot that goalkeeper Andrew Hogg should have dealt with, before substitute Danny Welbeck poked in a third in the first minute of injury time.
Kane smashed home a fourth with virtually the last kick of the game at Ta\’Qali National Stadium.
The three late goals shouldn\’t gloss over a disappointing display by England, whose build-up play was ponderous and only improved once Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford came on as a halftime substitute to inject some directness in the visitors\’ play.
England has won five and drawn the other two games in its seven qualifiers so far.
In the other match in the group, Scotland won 3-0 at Lithuania to move level on points with Slovenia and four behind Slovakia. Scotland is in third place courtesy of scoring more goals.