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Bellingham assures England has successful start to Euro 2024

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany — A powerful first-half header by Jude Bellingham sent England on the way to a successful launch of their Euro 2024 campaign with a 1-0 win over Serbia on Sunday that began confidently but saw the Three Lions clinging on for the points by the end.

The excellent Bellingham stormed into the box to connect with Bukayo Saka’s deflected cross that sailed across the box perfectly for the 20-year-old midfielder to put the Euro 2020 runners-up ahead from close range in the 13th minute.

The result put England top of Group C after Denmark and Slovenia drew 1-1 earlier on Sunday.

Bellingham, who began the move for the only goal himself, set the tempo for much of England’s attacking play and was cheered to the rafters of the cavernous Arena AufSchalke by the army of Three Lions fans bellowing his name.

Gareth Southgate’s attack-minded team initially found space down the right as Saka linked up with full back Kyle Walker, whose surging runs threatened to help add to England’s advantage.

But after the break, Serbia began to threaten and England showed little of their earlier fluency.

The tally of 11 shots by the final whistle – six by Serbia, five from England – was the lowest in a European Championship match since at least 1980, according to Opta data.

Bellingham took issue when asked by reporters if England’s loss of momentum showed the team remained a work in progress.

‘I don’t agree with that,’ he said. ‘I think the first half shows why we can score goals against any team and the second half shows why we can keep a clean sheet against any team.’

OPINION: Why Three Lions will (or won’t) win Euro 2024 to end trophy drought

Serbia improve

Serbia upped their game at the start of the second half after bringing on Ivan Ilic for defensive midfielder Nemanja Gudelj, and before long striker Dusan Vlahovic swept a cross dangerously across England’s box, rousing their fans.

Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic doubled down on his switch to a more attacking shape as Dusan Tadic and Luka Jovic came off the bench with just over an hour played.

Southgate responded by introducing the hard-running Conor Gallagher – replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold playing in an unfamiliar midfield role.

Another substitute, Jarrod Bowen, delivered a pinpoint cross for captain Harry Kane, whose header was pushed onto the bar by goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic in the 77th minute.

Five minutes later, a fierce Vlahovic shot was tipped over by Jordan Pickford as Serbia kept up the pressure.

But England, with an unfamiliar-looking defence that featured the impressive Marc Guehi, playing in a major tournament for the first time, and right-footed Kieran Trippier standing in as left back, held out for the win.

Kane acknowledged the performance was not a classic by England. ‘Overall a deserved win. It’s just about getting through,’ said the England captain.

‘There was a spell in the second half where we got camped in our box and we found it hard to get out but it was an important win tonight.’

England next play Denmark on Thursday after Serbia take on Slovenia.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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