Euro 2024, Football

Euro 2024 – Serbia vs England: Bellingham saves England with crucial header over rigid Serbia

In their opening matchup for Euro 2024, England defeated Serbia 1-0 to take the lead in Group C.

After just 13 minutes, thanks to a deflected cross from Bukayo Saka, Jude Bellingham’s superb header put Gareth Southgate’s team ahead. The first forty-five minutes of play were impressive.

Midway through the first half, Kyle Walker broke into the box and had a chance to increase their lead, but he missed the far post with his cross-shot, which was also beyond the reach of Harry Kane and Phil Foden.

There was an anxious end to the half as a result of their inability to capitalise on their dominance, and after the break, the momentum shifted.

Kieran Trippier shoved Aleksandar Mitrovic to the ground at the near post, although he lost the penalty appeal later.

Then, as England dug in and Southgate postponed making any further changes, Serbia pushed for a draw while substitutes Dusan Tadic and Luka Jovic nearly collaborated.

When the England manager finally turned to his bench, Jarrod Bowen made a nearly immediate impression. Harry Kane met his cross, and Serbian custodian Predrag Rajkovic expertly pushed his header against the underside of the bar.

However, Serbia kept applying pressure, forcing Jordan Pickford to parry a drive from Dusan Vlahovic before Sergej Milinkovic-Savic missed a long-range effort.

England hung on, waiting impatiently for the final whistle, but when it did arrive, they could enjoy a brilliant start to their Euro campaign.

England is already in a good position to go to the knockout stages of the tournament thanks to the draw between Slovenia and Denmark earlier on Sunday. However, if they want to advance further in the competition, they will need to perform better in the first half than the second.

England boss Gareth Southgate: “We defended very well as a unit. Our team ran out of energy and that didn’t surprise me due to the lack of 90 minutes our players have had. The subs helped us. I think we can be more efficient with the way we played in the first half which will help us moving forward.”

On Alexander-Arnold: “It’s not a role he’s done much before but he showed great discipline and moments of his fabulous passing range. We’re learning with him in this role and he showed some of the attributes we want. Whoever we play in there, we’ll be playing a young or inexperienced player in there. It was great to see him come through this test.”

On Kane: “We had so many options and so in control it didn’t feel like everyone needed to be involved in the game. In the second half where he held the ball up and won fouls to ease the pressure it was incredible. First half he was quiet but we were in complete control where Phil popped up in the spaces really well.

“He did an excellent job in the second half when we were struggling and his technical ability to hold the ball was really helpful. This team is still coming together. Everyone expects us to waltz though but there is hard work ahead. We’re short of certain things and trying to find solutions. We had a very complicated run-in to this tournament but the spirit was there to see and we’ll grow from that.”

England captain Harry Kane to BBC: “We knew it would be a tough game. Serbia pose a threat. Very physical. I thought we dealt with it well. Overall we deserved to win. The group is just about getting through.

“Jude is an unbelievable player. He deserves all the praise, the confidence he plays with and the way he affects games. It’s important for players that play in his position to get goals and assists. He finished it off nicely.”

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