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England reach Euro 2024 quarter-finals after dramatic comeback win over Slovakia

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England reach Euro 2024 quarter-finals after dramatic comeback win over Slovakia

Jude Bellingham’s stoppage-time stunner saved Gareth Southgate’s England from an embarrassing last-16 exit as the Euro 2024 hopefuls fought back to beat Slovakia 2-1 after extra time.

A summer that promised so much looked set to end in heartbreak and humiliation for a team that went within a penalty shoot-out of winning the last edition three years ago.

Ivan Schranz put wily, well-drilled Slovakia on course for their biggest win as an independent nation, only for Bellingham to leave jaws on the floor and disbelieving players on the deck in Gelsenkirchen.

The midfielder’s overhead kick five minutes into stoppage time sent the match to extra time, with captain Harry Kane’s header seeing Southgate’s side through this tricky last-16 clash.

Switzerland await in the quarter-finals on Saturday and England will look to build on the spirit shown towards the end of a match that had looked set to end in a result akin to Iceland at Euro 2016.

Southgate has overseen vast improvements since taking over shortly after that tournament eight years ago, but the pressure and scrutiny will be as hot as ever after squeaking into the last eight and onto his 100th match at the helm.

England’s manager received a mixed reception before a ball was kicked at the Veltins Arena, where card-happy referee Umut Meler booked Marc Guehi inside three minutes.

The centre-back will miss the Switzerland clash as a result, with Kobbie Mainoo, making his first competitive start aged 19, and Bellingham, who turned 21 on Saturday, soon collecting yellows.

Francesco Calzona’s Slovakia seemingly smelt blood after England won Group C in such unconvincing fashion. David Hancko’s early cross-shot flew across the face of goal and Kieran Trippier made a key clearance after Guehi threw himself in front of a Lukas Haraslin effort.

The boys in blue continued to play like they were the Euro 2024 favourites and took the lead in the 25th minute.

Bold play ended with David Strelec showing expert awareness to slip in Schranz, who kept his cool as Guehi – who lost the initial aerial ball – failed to get back and stop him slipping his shot past Jordan Pickford.

That goal darkened England’s mood, as did the team’s response. Jeers greeted Southgate’s side slowing down play and passing backwards, with patience on the pitch not shared by those in the stands.

There were also boos at the break from fans that had previously shown their anger after the draws with Denmark and Slovenia.

But Southgate’s men looked to have levelled four minutes after the restart, with Trippier’s low ball across the box turned in by Phil Foden.

The forward – who temporarily left the camp this week for the birth of his third child – saw celebrations cut short as the VAR ruled him offside.

England now had more bite in their attack but they so nearly served a Slovakia a second goal as Strelec met a loose free-kick with a strike from the halfway line that beat the advanced Pickford and bobbled wide.

That was a huge let-off for England, just as already-booked Juraj Kucka’s foul on Mainoo was one for Slovakia.

Foden hit that resulting free-kick into the wall and there were cheers when Cole Palmer came on, although few expected to see Saka moved to left-back even if replaced Trippier was limping.

England continued to probe as they sought a leveller that should have arrived in the 78th minute, but Kane somehow managed to head Foden’s free-kick wide.

Declan Rice hit a post from 25 yards three minutes later as the Euro 2020 runners-up plugged away for an equaliser that looked set to evade them as the match entered six minutes of stoppage time.

But in the fifth of those, a moment of magic sparked bedlam.

Guehi held his ground under pressure and flicked on a throw-in, with Bellingham hitting a brilliant overhead kick past Martin Dubravka.

The strike got England out of jail and took a tie that looked beyond them into extra time, which was not even a minute old when they went ahead.

Eberechi Eze’s shot into the ground was smartly headed on by fellow substitute Ivan Toney and Kane nodded home at the far post in front of the England section.

Southgate’s side dropped back after scoring and dug in as exhausted Slovakia tried to find an equaliser, with Peter Pekarik threatening from close range just before the break.

England’s goalscorers were withdrawn and Slovakia could not find a leveller, with the final whistle bringing ‘Sweet Caroline’ and sweet relief.

Published: by Radio NewsHub

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