Harry Kane praised Raheem Sterling's development after the Manchester City winger scored a hat-trick in England's 5-0 win over the Czech Republic on Friday.

Sterling opened the scoring at Wembley and added two more goals after Kane converted a penalty in first-half stoppage time as the Three Lions made a superb start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Tomas Kalas' 84th-minute own-goal wrapped up a hugely satisfying outing for Gareth Southgate's men ahead of their second Group A fixture against Montenegro on Monday, and Kane said Sterling's goals showed how much he has honed his poaching instincts.

"He is incredible," Kane told Sky Sports. "He is a great a player and so humble as well. He just wants to work hard and get better.

"You have seen him full of confidence out there. Great first goal - getting in the six-yard box. That's where most of the goals are scored so he has learned that over the past two-three years now playing for club and country.

"It's great to have him in this form, it's great to play with him and hopefully he can do it again on Monday."

Kane was also full of praise for Jadon Sancho, who completed the hosts' front three, and underlined the importance of goals coming from all areas of a team that has often relied heavily on his finishing abilities.

The Tottenham striker has scored 21 goals in 36 England appearances but Southgate handed Sancho his first competitive start against the Czech Republic while giving Callum Hudson-Odoi a debut from the bench as he broadened his attacking options.

"In a team, to be successful, you need your front three - all of you scoring or assisting and midfielders nicking goals as well and that's the way it's going to be," said Kane.

"We have got players who are good enough to do that. Players who want to express themselves."

It was the sense of inevitability that really showed how far Raheem Sterling has come.

When the livewire Manchester City forward twisted the yard of space he needed inside the Czech Republic box and drew back his weaker foot, Wembley expected.

Sterling whipped an unerring finish past visiting goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka for his second of the night. A deflected hat-trick goal sealed a dominant 5-0 win for Gareth Southgate's team, who are threatening to turn the World Cup wave they rode last year into a relentless, rolling tide across international football.

Russia 2018 gave England fans a batch of new heroes and a number of unquestionable success stories. Ranking alongside Pep Guardiola as his harshest critic, Sterling would not have put himself among that number.

His tireless, intelligent running made him a nightmare for defenders in all six of his tournament appearances, but the goals would not come. A couple of botched chances in the quarter-final win over Sweden had something of a rabbit-in-headlights quality. The openings looked as much a burden for his twisting, skilful frame as they were opportunities to be the hero.

England's general drop-off whenever Sterling was substituted in Russia underlined his importance to the cause, but a forward failing to score will always divide opinion. His first 45 England appearances brought two goals.

But on Friday at a national stadium a stone's throw from his childhood home, Sterling was a sure thing, as had been the case in the EFL Cup final here last month.

Then, a nerveless Sterling dispatched the decisive penalty to give City shoot-out glory against Chelsea. He was a reliable difference-maker, a match-winner par excellence. Unfortunately for the Czech Republic, this is now a role he revels in for club and country.

England's 24th-minute opener came from the sort of close-range finish Sterling is close to making his trademark. Harry Kane and the effervescent Jadon Sancho pulled the away defence apart and their fellow attacker slid home.

"Tap-in merchant" will be the cry from the ever-thinning band of detractors, but everyone would be doing it if it was that easy. Sterling's reading of the game is razor sharp, his movement judicious and never far from an opponent's weakest point.

A panicked mess of a back four combined to send him tumbling in first-half stoppage time, with Kane effectively sealing the points from the penalty spot.

Sterling had ripped open a team set up for stubborn resistance. After the Czech Republic threatened in an attacking sense early in the second half, he administered the finishing blows before resting up on the bench as Callum Hudson-Odoi became England's youngest competitive debutant and brought about an own goal of the slapstick variety from Tomas Kalac.

When he celebrated that second goal – the one where he had beleaguered defenders and the Wembley masses in the palm of his hand – Sterling unveiled a shirt paying tribute to Damary Dawkins, the 13-year-old Crystal Palace youth-team player who tragically passed away earlier this week following a battle with Leukaemia.

Not for the first time over recent months, Sterling the man was every bit as impressive as Sterling the footballer. He has become the symbol of an England side with an adoring public that has responded emphatically to Southgate's demands for maturity and expressiveness.

The Sterling who arrived in Russia to diligently carry out a brief of the hard yards was an excellent footballer and a Premier League champion. Now, he is so much better. He is a superstar and an inspiration.

Raheem Sterling scored a hat-trick as England made an impressive start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 5-0 win over the Czech Republic at Wembley on Friday.

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions qualified for the Nations League Finals in their most recent game late last year, and the four-month break since does not appear to have done them any harm, as Sterling inspired an easy victory.

With Marcus Rashford injured, Southgate handed a first senior start to Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho and he made a strong impact, setting up Sterling's opener, before the Manchester City star won a penalty that Harry Kane converted.

The Czech Republic started the second half better, but two goals in six minutes from Sterling ended any slim hopes of a fightback, while Tomas Kalas' own goal rounded off an abysmal outing for the visitors. 

England were dealt the blow of losing Eric Dier to injury in the 17th minute, with Ross Barkley replacing him.

But the hosts took the lead soon after at the end of a sequence of 25 passes, with Kane's incisive ball finding the run of Sancho to square across the face of goal for Sterling to knock home.

Sterling – who went into the match with only four international goals to his name – threatened again just before the break, winning a penalty after a combination of Kalas and Pavel Kaderabek blocked him off, and Kane made no mistake with the spot-kick.

The away side showed some positive intent after the interval, but goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka was helpless to prevent England increasing their lead just past the hour as a pass ricocheted to Sterling in the area and he curled home a left-footed effort after a clever turn.

Sterling completed his treble 22 minutes from time when his long-range strike deflected in off Ondrej Celustka, and Callum Hudson-Odoi replaced him soon after to become England's youngest competitive debutant.

The Chelsea winger played a role in the final goal as his shot was parried by Pavlenka and Kalas put the ball into his own net with a woeful first touch, completing a humiliating match for the Czech Republic.

 

What does it mean? Sterling and Kane to have a field day in Group A

Sterling was deadly in front of goal on and, while Kane was a little quieter than usual, he still managed to add to his goal haul in an England shirt.

Most will consider the Czech Republic to be England's toughest opposition in Group A, but the Three Lions tore them apart, with Sterling leading the surge.

Sancho is the real deal

A couple of wayward early passes suggested nerves on his full England debut, but Sancho eased into proceedings, teeing up Sterling to give England the lead. After that he looked his usual self, catching the eye with his silky footwork and fine movement. He is surely a mainstay in the making.

Alli fails to sparkle

Most of England's more forward-thinking players impressed in one way or another, but Dele Alli looked a little off the pace and was significantly less involved.

What's next?

England travel to Podgorica to face Montenegro on Monday, while the Czech Republic host Brazil in a friendly a day later.

Raheem Sterling would be a worthy winner of any player-of-the-season awards, according to England captain Harry Kane.

Sterling has enjoyed a superb campaign with reigning Premier League champions Manchester City, scoring 19 goals in all competitions and netting the decisive penalty as Pep Guardiola's team retained the EFL Cup with a shoot-out triumph over Chelsea at Wembley.

Kane and Sterling are set to combine in England's forward line for the opening Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro over the coming week, before they take their places on either side of a Champions League quarter-final showdown between Tottenham and City.

"Raheem has had an amazing season again," Kane told a news conference at England's St George's Park training base. "They've won one competition, they're still in all the others and Raheem has been a big part of their success so far.

"He's a great lad, great player and I'm looking forward to playing with him in the games for the next week or so.

"He'll definitely be in with a shout for player of the year."

Despite established City and Liverpool contingents in Gareth Southgate's squad as a nip-and-tuck Premier League title race reaches boiling point, Kane insists focus on international matters is unwavering for last year's World Cup semi-finalists.

"Obviously we've had a bit of banter and stuff. I think the great thing about this team and this England camp is we have a bit of fun and a laugh and a joke," he said.

"But we know that when we're here it's all about England and we put that to one side. Even with the Liverpool and the City boys, when we're here it's 100 per cent England.

"When we go back I'm sure there'll be a couple of text messages and group messages flying about.

"We've got a great bond here and we're good friends, whether we play for one club or the other. We all get on very well.

"When we're at our clubs it's 110 per cent to try and beat each other but we have that respect where we can talk after and be friends."

Tottenham had threatened to play a part in a three-horse title race for large parts of the season but a run of one point from their past four top-flight games has dropped them back into a scrap for the Champions League qualification places.

Nevertheless, with the long-awaited move to their new stadium finally arriving after the international break, Kane is relishing the fight ahead.

He added: "It's going to be a tough battle. The top six are so strong now. We're three points clear [of Arsenal in fifth] in the top four. It's in our own hands.

"If someone had said third place and the quarter-final of the Champions League, with everything that's surrounding the club, it's not a bad position to be in so far."

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