England 1, Croatia 0 (Euro 2020 Group D)
England got off to a winning start to Euro 2020 against Croatia when Raheem Sterling scored the winning goal in the second half at a baking hot Wembley.Embed from Getty Images
It was the first time in 10 European Championships that England had won their opening game in the tournament and it was thanks to Sterling and his 16th goal for his country.
It also marked the 11th straight win for England when Sterling has scored – the best 100% win rate – overtaking Martin Chivers’ record of 10 – with the Manchester City winger also playing more games for England at Wembley without losing than any other player – 23 (W21, D2).
Tyrone Mings was selected by Gareth Southgate to replace Harry Maguire (who was injured), while Ben Chilwell, and Jadon Sancho missed out on the match day 23 from England’s full squad of 26.
Kieran Trippier was picked ahead of Luke Shaw and Chilwell in the left full back berth in the Wembley heat.
And prior to kick off universal applause for Christian Eriksen, Inter Milan’s Danish playmaker who used to play for Tottenham, who was hospitalised after a cardiac arrest in their game against Finland yesterday, was tempered by a more mixed reaction to England player taking the knee in a gesture of solidarity against racism.
The boos from large sections of the quarter full Wembley were quickly drowned out by applause but it remained disappointing that a sizeable minority of fans present chose to defy all requests to respect the national team’s stance against racism.
England, with their front three of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, and Phil Foden almost had an immediate impact with Kalvin Phillips an effective presence behind them in midfield.
Wembley might have been celebrating an early goal as England attacked quickly from the start.
Foden cut inside from the right and curled a shot onto the back post after being put through by Sterling with little over 5 minutes elapsed.
Sterling won a corner soon afterwards after he was block tackled by Duje Caleta-Car and Philips had a low volley blocked from Mason Mount’s resulting set piece after Croatia failed to make the clearance.
Harry Kane was offside for a Keiran Trippier free kick after Phillips had been brought down while Sterling sent a chance well wide.
The early blitz deserved more for England’s efforts but Southgate’s decision to selectively cut off Croatia’s passing lanes was working until the heat started to take its toll.
Croatia had few chances until the started to get into the game later in the first half – Ivan Perisic blazed over after the ball bobbled when arriving from the right.
England faded after their bright start but remained dangerous on the break even though chances became rarer as the visitors worked themselves into the game.
Caleta-Car was booked for handball on the edge of the area as Sterling keep harassing the Croat defence with his runs.
But unlike in the World Cup semi final Trippier’s free kick shortly before half time struck Ivan Perisic.
Perisic deflected a Mings clearance back towards goal but Jordan Pickford was able to comfortably hold it.
Modric’s long range daisy cutter was easy to collect after that as England began to get nervous.
The nerves were quickly dispelled after 57 minutes after Sterling finally nailed his first tournament goal following a pinpoint pass from the right by Phillips was finished from 6 yards out by Sterling after he had swapped flanks with Foden and made a late run into the box.
It was a just reward for his manager’s faith in him that Sterling has been involved in 19 goals in his last 17 England games (13 goals, 6 assists).
And Kane could have doubled the lead after 61 minutes when he blazed Mason Mount’s cross over the bar and then collided painfully with the far post.
Marcelo Brozovic gave away a foul to the right of the D after bringing Mason Mount down.
The Chelsea youngster’s dipping free kick was just too high though.
The heat was starting to take a toll on both sides.
Luka Modric cut Croatia’s first corner back to Brozovic after 70 minutes but he could only blaze it wide.
Brozovic was quickly replaced by Nikola Vlasic while Andre Kramaric was replaced by Josip Brekalo.
Foden was taken off and Marcus Rashford was brought on as England responded.
Walker shielded the ball from Perisic after Vlasic put a ball into the six yard box.
Sterling blazed over after Mings nodded down Phillips’ free kick as England turned down another chance to extend their lead.
Bruno Petkovic replaced Ante Rebic as Croatia made there final change to bring on a focal point to their attack.
Southgate responded by trusting in Jude Bellingham who became the youngest ever player to feature at the European Championships – at 17 years and 349 days – and the youngest English player to ever play in any major tournament for England – for a tired looking Kane.
And Dominic Calvert-Lewin was England’s last substitute – replacing Sterling after 92 minutes – as Southgate’s men saw out a comfortable win.
GOAL – England 1, Croatia 0 (Euro 2020 Group D)
England 1, Croatia 0: 57. Raheem Sterling was on the spot to finish from 6 yards out after Kalvin Phillips threaded the ball to him between 2 defenders after cutting in from the right flank.
MATCH STATS – England 1, Croatia 0 (Euro 2020 Group D)
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Mings, Trippier, Phillips, Rice, Foden (Rashford 71), Mount, Sterling (Calvert-Lewin 90+2), Kane (Bellingham 82)
England subs not used: Dean Henderson, Johnstone, Shaw, Grealish, Coady, White, James, Saka
Booking: Foden 64 (foul on Josko Gvaridol)
Goal: Sterling 57
Croatia: Livakovic, Vrsalijko, Vida, Caleta-Car, Gvardiol, Modric, Brozovic (Vlasic 70), Kovacic (Pasalic 85), Kramaric (Brekalo 70), Rebic, Perisic (Petkovic 78)
Croatia Subs not used: Lovre Kalinic, Budimir, Skoric, Badelj, Juranovic, Sluga, Bradaric, Ivanusec
Bookings: Caleta-Car 42 (handball); Kovacic 48 (foul on Mason Mount); Brozovic 66 (foul on Mason Mount)
Referee: Daniele Orsato