Bukayo Saka stunner lights up England's comfortable win over Ukraine
England cantered to a 2-0 win over Ukraine at Wembley on Sunday, continuing their impressive start to Euro 2024 qualifying on an emotional afternoon in north London.
Much of the build-up was dedicated to the ongoing war in Ukraine and the Ukrainian players rightfully praised for competing despite the atrocities in their homeland.
The two teams posed for a photo with a Ukraine flag with ‘PEACE’ written on it in a lovely gesture after a powerful rendition of the Ukrainian anthem.
It was a friendly atmosphere between the two teams and the game felt a bit like a friendly for much of it, with England largely untroubled, but not in too much hurry to trouble their visitors either.
Two goals in two minutes where the difference late in the first half as Harry Kane scored his 55th for his country before Bukayo Saka curled in a beautiful effort from the edge of the penalty area.
Saka had a very good game, continuing his excellent form this season, while James Maddison showed flashes in his first start for England, looking good but somewhat limited in what he could rustle up in what was overall an efficient, but pretty low-key performance from the team.
A comfortable win will go down well with Gareth Southgate, who makes it two victories from two after the memorable three points in Italy to start the qualification campaign.
It didn’t feel much like a competitive game early on in the match, with little happening and not much pace or impetus about it. England were in control and not under any threat, but not doing a fat lot.
Kane, as he is so often, was the chief threat as he had a penalty shout turned down within the first 10 minutes and spurned a couple of half chances early on – one a little more than a half chance as he fluffed a volley 26 minutes in.
He was never going to spurn too many, though, and it was the captain who broke the deadlock on 37 minutes as he expertly started and finished a move.
Saka had his back to goal when he received the ball over 20 yards out, he skipped past his man and curled in a wonderful effort into the far top corner from the edge of the box.
A smart finish from Saka puts @England two goals up ð #C4Football | #ThreeLions | #ENGUKR pic.twitter.com/3nd5h8HD1o
With that it seemed that the game was over as a contest and Ukraine could do little to suggest otherwise after the break as they toiled away with pretty much no impact.
England were in no real hurry to push for more goals and with no changes until the last 10 minutes, the home side just held Ukraine at arm’s length and things were all quite dull.
A change from Gareth Southgate did come in the 81st minute, though, and it was significant as it brought about a debut for Brentford’s Ivan Toney, which has been somewhat overdue.
It was another substitute who nearly got a third late on as Conor Gallagher forced a save from Anatoliy Trobin in a rare highlight of the second stanza, although more were to come.
Harry Maguire watched a good headed chance soar over the bar, while Jack Grealish came on and saw a shot saved by Trobin.
The net never bulged again, though, and England took the three points in impressively comfortable fashion, never conceding a shot on target as their perfect start to qualifying continued.
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