England secured their place in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals with a late comeback victory over Croatia at Wembley Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Three Lions were irresistible in the first-half but wasted numerous opportunities to take the lead. They were made to pay after the break as Andrej Kramaric found the net via a deflected effort. Jesse Lingard came off the bench to stab home a vital equaliser for England before Harry Kane steered home late in the game to claim a vital victory.
Chances in the early minutes
Sloppy play from England almost gave Croatia the perfect start but Ante Rebic could not profit as he blazed over with Jordan Pickford out of his goal.
The Three Lions then had chances to take the lead as Raheem Sterling sprinted through but was thwarted one-on-one with Lovre Kalinic. The resultant corner was flicked on by John Stones towards Harry Kane but he could not convert the rebound and skewed his effort at the far post wide.
Gareth Southgate’s men were then frustrated even further as heroic defending from the Croatians kept the scores level once more. Sterling’s pace was again causing trouble and he ran through before good anticipation from Kalinic saw the ball fall to Kane. With the goal at his mercy, he set his sights but Tin Jedvaj was back well to head off the line. The ball came back to the Tottenham man but again he was denied by Kalinic, who had managed to get back to his goal.
England, unfazed, continued to threaten throughout the first-half. Ben Chilwell forced a low save from the Croatian goalkeeper before Ross Barkley lashed a volley into the side-netting. Consequently, the teams went into the break level.
Kramaric strikes against the run of play
Despite the Three Lions’ domination throughout the opening half, it was Zlatko Dalic’s men who took control of the group first of all. Kramaric did excellently to wriggle away in the penalty area to manufacture space. The Hoffenheim man was afforded far too much time to strike and his effort took a wicked deflection off of Eric Dier and spun beyond the grasp of Pickford to find the net.
With Gareth Southgate and Engnlandstaring down the barrel of relegation, he made two changes hoping to turn the tide. Jadon Sancho and Lingard were both introduced and it was the latter who notched the crucial equaliser. A long throw in made its way all the way to Kane at the back post and he stabbed the ball through Kalinic’s legs. From only a matter of yards out, Lingard poked the ball into the net to haul the hosts level.
The Manchester United man was then key again as he kept Domagoj Vida’s header out with an instinctive goal-line clearance.
Kane touches home in closing minutes
In an ironic twist to that infamous World Cup semi final, another comeback was complete but this time it was England’s. From a deep free-kick, Chilwell produced a teasing cross and Kane stretched with every sinew of his body to poke the ball into the bottom corner to finally seize the lead.
Southgate’s men continued to hold firm in the closing stages and deservedly claimed three points to take them through to the semi-finals of the UEFA Nations League.
It really would have felt unjust should England have lost the game at Wembley. Southgate’s troops were by far the more ambitious side and created numerous goalscoring opportunities. However, it looked as though that wastefulness would come back to really make them pay as Kramaric put the visitors ahead. The mental strength and attitude of the Three Lions has to be highlighted though to enable them to come back and secure an extremely important victory.
England: Pickford (7); Chilwell (8), Stones (7), Gomez (7), Walker (6); Delph (7) (Lingard (7), 73′), Dier (7), Barkley (6) (Alli (6), 63′); Sterling (7), Rashford (6) (Sancho (73′), Kane (7).
Croatia: Kalinic (8); Jedvaj (6), Vida (7), Lovren (6), Vrsaljko (6) (Milic (6), 26′); Brozovic (6), Modric (7); Perisic (6), Vlasic (6) (Rog (N/A), 79′), Rebic (5) (Brekalo (6), 45′); Kramaric (7).
Goals: Kramaric (57′), Lingard (78′), Kane (85′)
Referee: Anastasios Sidiropoulos
Yellow Cards: Barkley (26′), Brozovic (67′), Jedvaj (67′), Lovren (89′)
Red Cards: N/A
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