Netherlands 1-2 England: Watkins strikes in stoppage time as England reach EURO2024 final

Well… that happened! England will face Spain in the EURO2024 final in Berlin on Sunday, having progressed past the Netherlands thanks to a late Ollie Watkins winner.

The Oranje had raced into an early lead through Xavi Simons, and while Harry Kane had restored parity from the penalty spot in the first half, extra time seemed to be in order.

Watkins arrived off the bench and had the desired impact, striking deep into second-half stoppage time to ensure England will contest a second consecutive EUROs final.

As it happened

Spain’s 2-1 victory over France in Munich set the tone for another thrilling semifinal clash – and while Dortmund may not have been able to bear witness to a Lamine Yamal wondergoal, fans were treated to a spectacle nonetheless.

There was a change apiece for both sides, with Marc Guéhi and Donyell Malen replacing Ezri Konsa and Steven Bergwijn respectively. Malen looked to be through on goal inside the opening five minutes after neat work from Xavi Simons, though the Dortmund forward was denied on his home turf.

The Netherlands’ bright start continued while England found themselves truly under the cosh – and as they have done in both of their previous knockout stage matches, they’d need to come from behind.

Simons got the better of Declan Rice, jinking past the Arsenal man to open up just enough space to unleash a thunderous effort. The outstretched arms of Jordan Pickford could not deny him, and the majority-Dutch crowd burst into raptures as the Oranje stole the lead.

A flurry of free-kicks fell for England as the half progressed, with Rice left frustrated when his attempted flick on at the back post came to nothing.

The Three Lions would, with less than twenty minutes played at the Westfalenstadion, restore parity from the penalty spot. Harry Kane tumbled to the ground as he blazed an effort over the crossbar from a Bukayo Saka lay-off; VAR found that Denzel Dumfries had in fact fouled the forward, and he duly dispatched from twelve yards out.

(Photo by Matt McNulty – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

It quickly became apparent that this was a game that would be decided by the smallest of margins: Phil Foden was mere millimetres away from handing England the lead, while Denzel Dumfries’ header rattled the crossbar – and all before the half-hour mark.

Foden looked destined to get a goal of his own, and his performance certainly merited it in the first half. After he’d been denied by a remarkable goal-line clearance though, the Manchester City star attempted an effort reminiscent of Lamine Yamal’s strike last night – though he found the wrong side of the post and could only watch it bobble behind for a goal kick.

The first half had arguably been defined by Foden’s trickery in the attacking third; the second half was very much dictated by Pickford’s refusal to be beaten for a second time. A stinging effort close to his body was palmed away first, then a testing in-swinger and a bobbling strike from Simons.

Just as Gareth Southgate was readying Cole Palmer and Ollie Watkins to enter the fray, England thought they’d taken the lead through a close-range finish from Saka. Walker’s cross for the Arsenal star was smashed home with aplomb – but the defender had started his run just a fraction too early and the offside flag was duly raised.

Yet there’d be redemption still, at the latest of late moments. Just as two minutes of injury time were signalled by the fourth official; Ollie Watkins interpreted that as his cue to kick the engine into gear. He danced past de Vrij, worked himself into a seemingly impossibly tight angle – and then, somehow, slotted past Verbruggen.

Embed from Getty Images

Westfalenstadion erupted. When England most needed a hero, Watkins shouldered the responsibility. His name was sung at full time; it will be sung for the next four days. England are going to Berlin – and a date with Spain at the Olympiastadion awaits.

The lineups

NED: Verbruggen; Aké, van Dijk, de Vrij, Dumfries; Schouten, Simons, Reijnders; Gakpo, Memphis, Malen

ENG: Pickford; Guéhi, Stones, Walker; Trippier, Rice, Mainoo, Saka; Foden, Kane, Bellingham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *