Wednesday , July 24 2024

Ollie Watkins scores last minute winner, sending England into Sunday’s final

Late substitution puts England through to their first major footballing overseas final, when they will tackle Spain at Euro 2024.

Ollie Watkins scored a 91st-minute winner to send England into the Euro 2024 final. AFP/VNA Photo

DORTMUND Aston Villa striker, Ollie Watkins struck a stunning goal in injury-time to help England beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday, setting up a Euro 2024 final showdown with Spain in Berlin.

England welcomed back Marc Guehi in defence after suspension, while Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman opted to start Donyell Malen in attack, playing on the ground where he plays club football for Borussia Dortmund.

Both sides began positively, but it was the Netherlands who took the lead early on.

In the seventh minute, Xavi Simons gave the Netherlands an early lead in the semi-final in Dortmund.

Declan Rice losing the ball and Xavi Simons 35 yards from goal, moved to the edge of the area and arrowed a rising drive across Jordan Pickford. The goal keeper had no chance to stop the ball.

This was the third consecutive game England had to come from behind.

But they forced their way back into the game with Kobbie Mainoo and Phil Foden to the fore.

Then, on 16 minutes, Bukayo Saka cut inside, all the way across the area until his shot was blocked. The loose ball bounced up to Harry Kane, who could not get quite it over the bar. A tough chance and he followed through painfully into Denzel Dumfries

He stayed down and eventually VAR took an interest, the referee coming over and deciding to award a penalty, which Kane drilled home into the bottom-left corner.

Kane continuing the Three Lions’ spot-kick perfection with an effort that gave Bart Verbruggen no chance. Kane’s sixth knockout goal also set a new European Championship record.

Buoyed by the equaliser, the team that looked laboured and lost for five games suddenly showed why they were tipped as favourites from the start for the tournament before a ball was kicked.

It settled into an open and entertaining game, with Denzel Dumfries redeeming himself by clearing off the line from Phil Foden.

Dumfries crashed a header off the bar from a Simons’ corner, but Foden responded by curling a superb shot from range off the top of the post.

England’s midfielders were being given too much time on the ball and Koeman used an injury to Memphis Depay to reinforce the centre, replacing the forward with Joey Veerman.

Another change followed at the interval, with Wout Weghorst — super-sub in previous rounds — replacing Malen.

Pickford denied Virgil van Dijk on 65 minutes and the Netherlands began to take control as England’s leading players started to tire.

England did have the ball in the net on 79 minutes when Bukayo Saka turned in a Kyle Walker cutback, but it was just offside and the flag cut short the celebrations.

With the game slipping out of his side’s grasp after a dominant first half, Southgate replaced captain Harry Kane and Phil Foden with Watkins and Cole Palmer, ten minutes from time.

The two subs combined as Watkins spun onto Palmer’s pass and fired low and hard into the far corner to send England into a final against Spain on this Sunday.

It will be the first time that England has played a major tournament final outside their own country

“I’ve been waiting for that moment for weeks,” said Watkins.

“I got the opportunity and took it. I said to Cole, ‘We’re going to come on and you’re going to set me up.’ I knew, as soon as he got the ball, he was going to play me in. When it went in the bottom corner, it was the best feeling ever.”

England manager Gareth Southgate said: “We felt, energy-wise, that we were starting to lose a bit of pressure, and Harry [Kane] picked up a knock. Ollie [Watkins] can press well and get those runs in behind. We felt it was a good moment to try it. I’m so chuffed for Ollie to get his moment. To be able to take England to a first [major] final overseas, I’m immensely proud of that.” VNS

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