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England return an emotional occasion for hero Defoe

Jermain Defoe led England's team out despite Joe Hart being captain Credit: PA

Jermain Defoe struggled to keep his emotions in check after hitting the target on his first England appearance in three and a half years.

The Sunderland striker has not worn the Three Lions since November 2013 but showed he has lost none of his poacher's pedigree when his first-time finish teed England up for a 2-0 win over Lithuania.

It was the 34-year-old's 20th goal at international level, coming four years and four days since his 19th, but there was another reason the moment felt special.

Defoe was accompanied on to the pitch by terminally-ill five-year-old Bradley Lowery, the Sunderland fan with whom he has formed a "best mates" bond in recent months.

Joe Hart was named England captain for the evening but insisted Defoe and Lowery lead the team out. The striker told ITV how the occasion left him emotional, but remains aware he needs to continue his good form at club level.

It's hard to put into words really.

I had to keep my emotions (under control), obviously little Brad was with me. You can imagine how I felt doing that, having done it with my club as well, it was special.

Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling. I enjoyed it, it's been a good week.

Just to win the game was important and we did that. It's hard to put in words really to be back.

Obviously I've got to go back to my club and make sure we finish the season strong. Like I've always done, I'll keep my head down and see what happens.

– Jermain Defoe


Gibson replaces injured Smalling in England squad

Gibson has come in for Smalling. Credit: PA

Chris Smalling has been forced out of the England squad through injury, leading Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson to receive his first call-up.

Gareth Southgate was already facing a defensive headache for Sunday's World Cup qualifier against Lithuania as Gary Cahill, the skipper in Wednesday's 1-0 defeat in Germany, was suspended and Phil Jones withdrew through injury on the eve of the friendly.

The Manchester United defender sustained a toe injury in what appeared to be a training ground duel with team-mate Smalling, who on Friday left the squad with fitness problems of his own.

The centre-back has returned to Manchester for treatment on the unspecified issue, with Southgate turning to uncapped Middlesbrough defender Gibson.

The 24-year-old was a regular for the England Under-21s during Southgate's reign and has been linked with a variety of clubs having impressed during Boro's Premier League campaign.

Southgate had not been planning to call up any reinforcements for Sunday despite the absence of Cahill and Jones, but Smalling's setback has forced his hand.

"We'll just assess over the next 24 hours if we have picked up any other knocks," the England boss said in Dortmund.

"I am not aware of anything significant at the moment so if that is the case we wouldn't."


Lallana: Dele Alli can be special player for England

Adam Lallana is impressed by Dele Alli's bravery in possession Credit: PA

Adam Lallana feels Dele Alli can be a "special" player for England, provided he is given time to fulfil his promise.

Lallana and Alli were pushed up as supporting attackers in Wednesday's 1-0 friendly loss in Germany, turning in eye-catching performances in Gareth Southgate's re-jigged 3-4-2-1 system.

Both players had wonderful chances to put the visitors ahead before half-time in Dortmund, Lallana hitting the post after a fine solo run and the Tottenham man denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen after going clear in the box.

Although he was frustrated not to do better on that occasion, Alli's all-round performance, full of neat touches and tricks, was hugely promising for a player still three weeks shy of his 21st birthday.

And Lallana feels it was a sign of things to come if Alli is allowed to develop.

Dele is special. I love the way he goes about his business: no fear, he's brave.

That's what makes him 'him'. All players have different attitudes that make them what they are and that's why he is unique and a special talent.

But people still need to be patient with him. He is still a young boy and performing how he does is way above his years. He is not even 21 yet.

It is important that we don't get carried away.

– Adam Lallana

Man Utd exit drove Keane toward England debut

Michael Keane made his debut playing in a three-man central defence for England Credit: PA

Burnley defender Michael Keane says playing for England was always his dream - even when he was turning out for the Republic of Ireland at youth level.

Keane has been a regular around the Three Lions squad since Gareth Southgate took over as manager and earned his first cap in Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Germany in Dortmund.

As well as ending the Clarets' 43-year wait to see an outfield player capped, it was the first step to a successful international career for the highly-rated Manchester United graduate.

Although born in Stockport, Keane was eligible for the Irish side through his father and wore green at Under-17 and Under-19 level, only to pledge for England in 2012.

And Keane has admitted he had something to prove after leaving Old Trafford.

I always wanted to play for England but when I was younger I was not at the level required so I thought it best to go and get some experience at international level. That is what I did.

When I got a call saying they wanted me I did not think twice. I was thankful to Ireland to play but England was my country. There was never any doubt.

My dad was born in Ireland but moved to England when he was nine, he's over the moon.

I have been striving to get here for the last year or two having come through the Under-21s so to finally do it, on a stage like this, against the world champions is a dream come true.

I felt comfortable. There were a few nerves and butterflies as you would expect but it helped me playing alongside experienced players. They were talking through me the game the whole time.

I always thought if I am playing well in the Premier League I would have a chance. I was always confident in my ability... I always thought I would make it at United.

A few changes in manager did not help and when I left I felt I had a point to prove and it made me work that bit harder. I feel maybe I have proved it.

– Michael Keane
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