Wembley rises to salute Jermain Defoe as Sunderland's talisman delivers perfect display

Defoe scored just 21 minutes into his England return
Defoe scored just 21 minutes into his England return
0
Have your say

Jermain Defoe is used to leading from the front.

He has been doing at Sunderland for two years now on Wearside, no longer a purely a poacher but a talisman, crucial not just in the box but as the spearhead of an attack that would be painfully pedestrian without him.

Today, he was at it again, this time for the country he had so yearned to represent once more..

A moment of class from new captain Joe Hart, insisting that Defoe was first out the tunnel, alongside his friend Bradley Lowery.

A proud moment for any Wearsider watching on, the pair of them representing the very best of the region, the best of the club. A story that will resonate for years to come.

Playing in front of Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana seemed to guarantee chances, but it was not so in a motionless opening 20 minutes.

Defoe barely touched the ball, well marshaled by the Lithuania defence, threatening too break free off the shoulder once or twice but never found by a precise final ball.

Defoe, though, is used being patient.

Playing up front in a struggling side has forced him to use all his experience, to keep making the right runs, to never switch off in the final third.

It took him just two touches in the box to make the net bulge.

The first was a smart run past the last man, denied only by the excellent reactions of Ernestas Setkus, rushing off his line to save with his feet.

Just moments later he was beaten. Defoe escaped his marker and with trademark poise, sent a firm effort arrowing into the top corner with the side of his right foot.

It had taken just four touches, one of those the kick-off, and 21 minutes, for him to become an international goal scorer again.

It was a perfect demonstration of the ruthless efficiency he has shown since donning the Red and White jersey, now there for all to see.

Credit to Gareth Southgate, who has shown he will pick on reputation, correctly guessing that this game would suit Defoe's movement more that Jamie Vardy's raw pace. Vardy's introduction looked premature but his goal minutes later reflected well on the new England boss.

Is this the start of a new chapter of just a glorious swansong?

Too early to tell. Certainly, Harry Kane is the man who will lead England's line for years to come.

Yet the standing ovation that greeted Defoe's substitution was recognition, at long last, of what a unique talent the 34-year-old possesses.

No longer seen as a bit-part player, a useful poacher. A leader, now, in every respect.