Saka’s super-strike secures victory over Ukraine

England’s second EURO2024 qualifier was sure to attract plenty of attention – not just for the football on the pitch, but for the circumstances surrounding the fixture. Gareth Southgate’s side were set to face Ukraine at Wembley, in a fixture that would provide Ukrainians with “one of the few opportunities to switch from war to sport for at least two hours.”

ENG: Pickford; Chilwell, Maguire, Stones, Walker; Bellingham, Rice, Henderson; Maddison, Kane, Saka

UKR: Trubin; Mykolenko, Matvyenko, Svatok, Karavaev; Zinchenko, Stepanenko; Mudryk, Sudakov, Malinovskyi; Yaremchuk

5,000 Ukrainians belted out a touching rendition of their national anthem ahead of kickoff, shortly after Harry Kane had been awarded with a golden boot for becoming England’s all-time top goalscorer during Thursday’s match against Italy.

England thought they should have been awarded a penalty in the opening ten minutes, as Harry Kane was brought down inside the box by Oleksandr Svatok – but the Dutch referee waved away the forward’s protests.

The Three Lions’ defence halted as Roman Yaremchuk surged forwards – they thought the striker was offside, but the linesman’s flag remained by his side. After blasting his shot wide, Yaremchuk was finally flagged offside.

Harry Kane opened the scoring in the 37th minute – further extending his lead over Wayne Rooney as the country’s all-time top scorer. Having played the ball out to Bukayo Saka on the right-wing, the Spurs striker made a run into the box, where he sent Saka’s cross into the back of the net with a lovely side-footed finish for his 55th England goal.

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Having provided the assist for Kane’s opener, Saka wanted in on the goalscoring action too – picking up the ball from Jordan Henderson with his back towards goal, before turning, darting past Matvyenko and finding the top-left corner from outside the box. England carried a well-earned 2-0 lead into the break.

James Maddison was desperate in his search for a goal on his full debut, but the Leicester City star blasted his effort over the crossbar and failed to really trouble Anatolii Trubin between the sticks. Maddison had had a few chances in the first half too, and he’ll be gutted that he couldn’t make any of them count.

Harry Maguire could have made it three-nil in injury time, but his headed effort from Jordan Henderson’s corner skimmed the crossbar despite having beaten Trubin.

England have enjoyed a successful international break – they battled to a 2-1 win in Naples on Thursday before picking up this win at Wembley. The Young Lions have also done well, with Lee Carsley’s U21 side thrashing France in a comfortable 4-0 win at the King Power Stadium on Saturday. They’ll face Croatia at Craven Cottage on Tuesday.

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