• Friday, July 19, 2024

FOOTBALL

Bellingham, Kane rescue England from Euro exit

Jude Bellingham’s moment of inspiration five minutes into six added on in stoppage time breathed new life into Gareth Southgate’s reign as England boss

England’s Jude Bellingham scores a goal against Slovakia in the Euro 2024 at Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen, Germany on June 30. (REUTERS/John Sibley)

By: Shajil Kumar

ENGLAND escaped an embarrassing last-16 exit at Euro 2024 thanks to Jude Bellingham’s overhead kick before Harry Kane struck in extra-time to grab a 2-1 win over Slovakia on Sunday.

The Three Lions have been hyped as one of the favourites as they bid to end a 58-year wait for major tournament glory but looked set to go out with a whimper to Ivan Schranz’s 25th minute goal.

However, Bellingham’s moment of inspiration five minutes into six added on in stoppage time breathed new life into Gareth Southgate’s reign as England boss.

Kane then headed in just a minute into extra-time to set up a quarter-final meeting with Switzerland on Saturday.

“That’s the desire and the attitude from the boys. It looked tough for a second there but you keep going,” said Kane. “Jude does what Jude does and what an unbelievable goal.”

Southgate looked set to fall on his sword after steadfastly refusing to make changes to a side that stumbled through as winners of Group C despite scoring just two goals in three games.

Kobbie Mainoo was introduced for his first competitive start in Southgate’s only change and he paid the price with another lacklustre display lacking in any speed or invention for long spells.

“We want to be better,” said Southgate. “I’m not going to hide from that but the spirit and character was there for everybody to see and we’re still in there fighting.”

The one saving grace of England’s performances in the group stage was that a makeshift defence had held up well, conceding just once in three games.

However, they were torn to pieces early on by a Slovakia side ranked 45th in the world.

England did not heed a couple of warnings as David Hancko and Lukas Haraslin were wasteful with big chances.

Slovakia finally punished their more illustrious opponents when David Strelec was given acres of room to turn and play in Schranz, who confidently stroked past Jordan Pickford for his third goal of the tournament.

The half-time whistle was met with a chorus of boos but Southgate still stuck to his guns and did not make a change until 25 minutes to go.

England did at least improve on a dismal first half and had the ball in the net within five minutes of the restart.

Phil Foden turned in Kieran Trippier’s cross but was caught offside after a VAR review.

Kane seals victory

Slovakia should have doubled their lead shortly afterwards when England gave away possession and Strelec saw Pickford well off his line but failed to hit the target from the halfway line.

Southgate’s hand was finally forced on 66 minutes by an injury to Trippier.

But England still struggled to create and looked down and out when Kane headed wide a golden opportunity and Declan Rice smashed the post with a long-range pot shot.

Southgate was even derided by the England support for bringing on Ivan Toney deep into stoppage time with chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing.”

However, there was an incredible twist as Bellingham acrobatically turned home Guehi’s flick-on from a throw-in the final moments of added-on time.

“It’s a feeling that is like no other,” said Bellingham.

“You’re 30 seconds from going home and having to listen to all the rubbish and feeling like you’ve let a nation of people down. In 30 seconds or one kick of the ball everything can change.”

Slovakia were suddenly rattled and Toney was to have a telling contribution.

The Brentford striker headed Eberechi Eze’s mishit shot back across goal for Kane to power home his second goal of the tournament.

Slovakia should still have taken the game to penalties when full-back Peter Pekarik failed to turn in a dangerous driven cross from point-blank range.

But England live to fight another day come the quarter-final against an impressive Switzerland, who comfortably knocked out holders Italy 2-0 on Saturday. (AFP)

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