LONDON (Reuters) -Harry Kane converted a 78th-minute VAR penalty to give England a 2-1 victory over Switzerland in a generally flat Wembley friendly on Saturday, taking the striker alongside Bobby Charlton on 49 England goals and behind only Wayne Rooney (53).
Breel Embolo gave the visitors a deserved lead after 22 minutes, with Luke Shaw equalising just before halftime in a rare England foray. Kane’s goal made it 10 wins and three draws against the Swiss since a World Cup qualifying defeat in 1981.
Both teams will be in Qatar for this year’s tournament though and neither coach will have learned a great deal from Saturday’s game, which was largely short of intensity and goalmouth action.
England manager Gareth Southgate gave debuts to Marc Guehi and Kyle Walker-Peters and a first start to Conor Gallagher but it was otherwise a near full-strength starting side, while the Swiss, impressive qualifiers for Qatar ahead of Italy, were at virtual full strength.
The visitors looked more organised and more energetic in the first half and went ahead when England centre back Ben White, a late inclusion in the team after John Stones was injured in the warm-up, misjudged an excellent Xherdan Shaqiri cross and Embolo nodded in.
England keeper Jordan Pickford made two excellent saves to deny Granit Xhaka and Fabian Frei as the hosts created almost nothing until first-half stoppage time when the impressive Gallagher sent over a low cross and Shaw crashed home a superb shot from the edge of the box.
The first 15 minutes of the second half passed without incident and then a total of eight substitutes – four for each team – came on, including another England debutant Tyrick Mitchell.
Neither side looked capable, or that motivated, to create much so it was no surprise when the decisive goal came via VAR a ruling that Steven Zuber’s handball, with his back turned, off Marc Guehi’s innocuous header was worthy of a pitchside look.
The referee eventually pointed to the spot and Kane slammed the ball home hard and low.
“It’s big year ahead, a chance to try some different systems, different formations,” Kane said. “There’s always room for an improvement but it was a good win to start the year.
“We rotated the squad a bit, some new faces made their debuts, which was great, and these are the games where we need to try stuff. We haven’t got a lot of time so all this information is key.”
On his goal and his position in the England scoring charts Kane added: “Penalties are a great way of getting on the scoresheet, I practice and work on them a lot.
“It’s amazing company to be with. I’m super proud to be doing that. It’s a big year ahead to get more caps and more goals.”
Kane might not have to wait too long for a shot at his 50th goal as England have another Wembley friendly on Tuesday, against Ivory Coast, when Switzerland host Kosovo in Zurich.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Ken Ferris)