Euro 2024: Bellingham, Kane Save England

  • In dramatic extra-time victory over Slovakia
Bellingham rescues England with an overhead kick in stoppage time

Skipper Harry Kane and Three Lions’ poster boy, Jude Bellingham were on target as England luckily scrapped through in a dramatic extra-time victory over Slovakia.

Kane’s equaliser in the 91st minutes that cancelled Slovakia’s Ivan Schranz 25th minute strike and Bellingham’s wonderful goal in the 90 + 4:34 minute did the magic for Garry Southgate to stay on in the championship for at least another game.

No doubt, the question that popped up among England’s die-hard fans on Sunday night was ‘Who else?’ And the man at the centre of it all, Jude Bellingham may even have mouthed the words during the wild goal cele­brations and it was a good point well made.

It simply had to be Bellingham, England’s golden boy, ­rescuing the team, the nation and surely Gareth Southgate, too, with an act of comic‑book brilliance just when all seemed lost.

The board had gone up to show six additional minutes at the end of the 90, with England trailing to Ivan Schranz’s goal for Slovakia midway through the first half and the ­obituaries were being written. Hell, they had been written.

Then enter Bellingham. It had not really happened for him up to that point, although he was hardly the only England player to have struggled. Yet the 21-year-old refused to believe it was over. Who else shared the same conviction? Be honest now …

It had been a largely horrible per­formance by Southgate’s team, of a piece with much of what they had produced during the group stage of this tournament. But when Marc Guéhi flicked on a long Kyle Walker throw‑in, with stoppage time almost up, Bellingham had found the space in front of the penalty spot and he leapt into the overhead kick. The technique was exquisite.

England had their reprieve and a historic moment, such a critical goal so late in a knockout tie. When the chips are down, England have tended to subside. Not here, and they turned the screw at the start of extra time.

Harry Kane had laboured as much as any England player; he continues to look short of peak fitness. But when two of Southgate’s substitutes combined, Ivan Toney heading a miscued Eberechi Eze shot across the six-yard box, there was Kane to crash home with his head.

Southgate will bring up his 100th game as England’s manager when his side faces Switzerland in the ­quarter‑finals on Saturday. This was emotional. Have England finally found something to spark them?

On a small level, Slovakia had helped to usher in the age of Southgate and Bellingham ensured it would continue, at least for another game.

Slovakia advertised their 25th minute goal in style and the feeling was as if they quickly realised there was nothing to fear or so special about the much-hyped Three Lions among the pre-tournament favourites.

England were better after the ­second-half restart, bringing a higher tempo. Phil Foden had the ball in the net from a left-footed Trippier cross only for the VAR to pull him back for offside. Kane saw a shot deflect wide.

Southgate introduced Cole Palmer for Trippier, moving Bukayo Saka to left-back. It was the manager going for broke, everything on the line. The tension pulsed. Could England manufacture something?

They did but it did not look like being enough. Kane sent a gilt-edged header wide from a Foden cross and Declan Rice rattled the post from outside the box, Kane ­volleying the rebound down and over.

Moments earlier, Southgate had introduced Toney for Foden, ­switching to a 3-5-2 formation. Eze went to left wing-back; now it was Saka at right wing-back. It was Toney who made the difference at the start of extra time, teeing up Kane and thereafter it was a case of England seeing out the game.

Southgate went to 5-4-1, Ezri Konsa on the left of defence, Conor Gallagher in midfield. Toney might have scored a third at the very end only to lash high. ­England live to fight another day. – With The Guardian report 

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