Euro 2020: Raheem Sterling winner sees England make winning start against Croatia

England now sit atop the Group B standings having taken all three points against Croatia in their opening Euro 2020 match.

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring in England's Euro 2020 match vs Croatia. (Twitter/@EURO2020)

Raheem Sterling scored the only goal of the game as England registered a hard-fought 1-0 win over Croatia in their opening Euro 2020 match at Wembley. Sterling scored in the 57th minute to break the deadlock after an excellent pass from Kalvin Phillips. Amazingly, this is the first time England have won their opening match in the European Championships. As a result, they sit atop the Group B standings having taken all three points. It was, however, not the ideal start for 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia.

The start of the match was reminiscent to when these two teams last met in the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup. England played on the front foot and looked to create early chances.

They came close as early as the sixth minute itself. A quick throw-in released Raheem Sterling, who played it forward to Phil Foden. The youngster cut onto his right and shot, but it hit the post.

But England grew in stature as the game went on. Declan Rice kept things tidy in midfield while Kalvin Phillips looked to be adventurous. Indeed, he completed all 18 passes he attempted.

Youngsters shine for England

Where England looked most dangerous was when one of Mason Mount, Sterling and Foden got on the ball. Sterling’s lack of a final touch was frustrating, but his zip and speed kept Croatia’s defence busy.

There was another deja vu moment, as England won a free-kick and Kieran Trippier stepped up to take it. But unlike the 2018 World Cup semi, this time he hit the wall.

However, England’s lack of a clinical touch hampered them – to make matters worse, skipper Harry Kane barely touched the ball. And as the half wore on, the tempo slowed and that suited Croatia.

It didn’t help matters that the game played out in the afternoon sun. The bright start was followed by a lot of passing but little in the way of incision from either sides.

As such, when the half-time whistle blew the 0-0 scoreline felt like a fair reflection of the game.

Sterling gives England perfect Euro 2020 start

The second half picked up where the first one left off, as Croatia continued to dominate. England were pegged back early in the half, often defending in numbers.

But then against the run of play they took the lead. Phillips, who was having an excellent game, picked up the ball deep and ran with it. He beat two players and put Sterling one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who did enough to give England the lead.

The goal saw England regain their foothold in the game and they began to control the ball more. It could – and should – have been two when Mason Mount’s cross from the left found Kane.

However, the England skipper was put off by a late challenge and somehow contrived to skew the ball over the post. He also tumbled into the goal frame but was luckily unharmed.

Mount was again involved in a dangerous position, winning England a free-kick. However, his effort went just over the bar. At the other end, Croatia missed a glit-edged chance through Ante Rebic, who shot wide from six yards out.

Sterling could have made it two in the 74th minute but missed from close range. England could have killed the game at that point but left Croatia an opening to come back.

Indeed, that was what happened during the World Cup semi-final. But the Croatia side of Euro 2020 look a little ponderous in comparison.

It helped considerably that England controlled the midfield, an area they were bossed in during the World Cup semi. Mount, Rice and Phillips kept their heads to keep the likes of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic at bay.

The game ended when Mario Pasalic spanked a speculative volley high and wide. The full-time whistle blew straight thereafter and England could breath a sigh of relief.




WRITTEN BY
Sportslumo Desk

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