NAPLES, Italy (Reuters) -Harry Kane became England's record international goalscorer as his side began their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign by defeating reigning champions Italy 2-1 in Group C on Thursday.
England's skipper struck a penalty past Italy keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma shortly before halftime to make it 2-0 and take his tally to 54, one more than Wayne Rooney.
Midfielder Declan Rice had opened the scoring after 13 minutes as Gareth Southgate's side dominated the first half.
Debutant striker Mateo Retegui halved the deficit in the 56th minute as Italy responded in impressive fashion but England weathered a storm to secure a first win over Italy on Italian soil for 62 years despite having Luke Shaw sent off.
Although there will be concern at how England lost their way in the second half, it proved the perfect response after the heartache of losing to France in the World Cup quarter-finals in December when Kane missed a crucial penalty.
This time he made no mistake after Giovanni Di Lorenzo was harshly penalised for handball in the 42nd minute, finding the corner to claim another scoring record.
Kane was also involved in England's opener as his blocked shot fell for Rice to convert to silence the majority of fans inside the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona.
Italy, who beat England on penalties to win Euro 2020 at Wembley Stadium but failed to qualify for the World Cup, were far more dangerous in the second half after Argentina-born Retegui smashed a low shot past Jordan Pickford.
England sank deeper and deeper as they appeared to run out of legs but Italy struggled to create clear chances and suffered a first Euro qualifying defeat in 41 games.
It was England's first competitive victory over Italy since 1977 and meant Gareth Southgate has racked up 50 wins as the national coach since taking the job in 2016.
But the night belonged to Kane.
"This means everything," Kane said. "So excited to get back out there and put the England shirt back on. And it had to be a penalty of course. Once it hit the back of the net there was so much emotion. Just huge thanks to the players, staff and fans."
Rooney, whose goals came in 120 games compared with the 81 it has taken Kane to move ahead of him, was quick to congratulate his former international team mate.
"I knew it wouldn't take long but that was quick. Great man, unbelievable goalscorer and an England legend. Congrats Harry!" Rooney said on Twitter.
It was the first time Naples had hosted the Azzurri for a decade but it all went flat for Roberto Mancini's team as they were outplayed in the first half.
Young midfielder Jude Bellingham ran the show in the early stages for England and he forced a superb save from Donnarumma when he let fly with a ferocious shot from distance.
From the resulting corner, the ball fell to Kane and when his shot was blocked by Leonardo Spinazzola it fell kindly for Rice to shoot past Donnarumma.
England looked dangerous every time they crossed the halfway line and Kane flashed a low ball across the face of the goal.
Kalvin Phillips, surprisingly given a start despite hardly any minutes for Manchester City this season, went close with a low show as Kane screamed for a pass.
Kane's history-making moment was a touch harsh on Italy as referee Srdjan Jovanovic decided after checking a monitor that Di Lorenzo had used his arm as a cross came into the box.
Kane dispatched the penalty to put England in cruise control and Jack Grealish missed a glorious chance to make it 3-0 on the stroke of halftime.
Italy were a different proposition after the break and Retegui marked his debut with a clinical finish.
Mancini sent on Wilfrid Gnonto midway through the half and he caused all sorts of problems as Italy piled forward.
Shaw was booked for time wasting and a minute later received another yellow for a mistimed tackle and a flagging England had to dig deep to get over the line.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond)