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Rediff.com  » Sports » PIX: Watkins late strike fires England into Euro final

PIX: Watkins late strike fires England into Euro final

Last updated on: July 11, 2024 04:01 IST
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Images from the Euro 2024 semi-final between the Netherlands and England, at Dortmund BVB Stadion, Germany, on Wednesday.

Harry Kane celebrates with Ollie Watkins after England clinch victory over the Netherlands in the Euro 2024 semi-final, at Dortmund BVB Stadion, Germany, on Wednesday.

IMAGE: Harry Kane celebrates with Ollie Watkins after England clinch victory over the Netherlands in the Euro 2024 semi-final, at Dortmund BVB Stadion, Germany, on Wednesday. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Substitute Ollie Watkins scored in the 91st minute to send England through to their second successive European Championship final on Wednesday after beating the Netherlands 2-1 in an exhilarating encounter.

 

With the match looking set for extra-time, Watkins received a pass from Cole Palmer and fired a sweet strike into the far corner to trigger euphoria among England's fans and players.

England will play Spain in Sunday's final.

Xavi Simons had put the Dutch ahead seven minutes into a frenetic first half with a phenomenal long-range effort, before England levelled 11 minutes later with Harry Kane coolly converting a penalty awarded for a foul by Denzel Dumfries.

Ollie Watkins smashes a fierce shot into the bottom corner of the Netherlands goal in the first minute of added time.

IMAGE: Ollie Watkins smashes a fierce shot into the bottom corner of the Netherlands goal in the first minute of added time. Photograph: Piroschka Van De Wouw/Reuters

England finally showed their true colours at the European Championship, putting on a convincing and effective performance when it mattered most.

Watkins’s late winner was as much as they deserved after dominating the encounter in a display their supporters had been eagerly awaiting but barely daring to hope for.

It was an emphatic answer after the criticism heaped on the side for some languid showings against underwhelming opposition earlier in the tournament, and sets up a mouth-watering final against a slick-looking Spain.

Xavi Simons drives the ball home from the top of the box to put the Netherlands ahead.

IMAGE: Xavi Simons drives the ball home from the top of the box to put the Netherlands ahead. Photograph: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

England had frustrated their followers, looking pedestrian at times in the group phase as well as their knockout round games. It was as if they were suffocating at times under a heavy burden of expectation, a feeling coach Gareth Southgate said on Tuesday that they learned to leave behind as they went deeper into the tournament.

Their round of 16 performance as they edged Slovakia bordered on the miraculous, snatching victory minutes from being eliminated, and there was a nervy showing as they fought back, again, to edge Switzerland on penalties in the quarter-final.

Harry Kane scores from the penalty spot to draw England level.

IMAGE: Harry Kane scores from the penalty spot to draw England level. Photograph: Leon Kuegeler/Reuters

This time, however, there was a positivity about their play from the start, even if it was a third successive game where they went behind, this time to Xavi Simons’s spectacular seventh minute effort.

Harry Kane’s penalty equaliser was followed by a sustained period of pressure on the Dutch defence, with England shaking off the cobwebs and properly greasing the wheels of their attack.

The individual quality of their players was on full display and they had their opponents pegged back, looking dangerous every time they entered the final third.

Harry Kane celebrates after scoring.

IMAGE: Harry Kane celebrates after scoring. Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

Phil Foden was exceedingly unlucky not to have them ahead at half-time with some sublime skill but had his effort cleared off the line.

The second period was not as dominant as fatigue set in and the Dutch enjoyed their fair share of possession.

But even then, whenever England moved menacingly forward, a goal looked on the cards.

Denzel Dumfries clears the ball off the goalline following a fine effort from England's Phil Foden.

IMAGE: Denzel Dumfries clears the ball off the goalline following a fine effort from England's Phil Foden. Photograph: Leon Kuegeler/Reuters

It was almost to script that they engineered victory just before the final whistle, as Watkins emerged an unlikely hero not long after coming on.

The confidence boost cannot be underestimated, especially as an in-form opponent awaits on Sunday at the Olympiastadion.

When they needed to stand up and be counted, the real England came to the party and, after almost a month of gritty competition, the tournament has two worthy finalists.

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