Exhilarating England thump Ukraine in Rome to reach Euros semi-final


ngland are coming home and bringing football with them.

A Wembley semi-final against Denmark was secured in emphatic fashion with a 4-0 win against Ukraine in Rome.

Harry Kane struck twice to prove his problems in front of goal are well and truly over – but this was an all-round performance to send a warning to the rest of the teams left in the Euros that the Three Lions are a force to be reckoned with.

Gareth Southgate had warned against complacency in a game his side were expected to win – but victory was never in doubt from the moment Kane fired England ahead inside four minutes.

Nerves were immediately settled in Rome and from that point on it was a case of getting the job done.

But there was no sense of England just seeing the job out and settling for what they had. After so many tight games in these finals, Southgate’s side were let off the leash – racing to a four-goal lead with just over an hour gone, with three goals in 13 second half minutes.

Ukraine were blown away by England’s explosive attacking – Harry Maguire doubling their lead, Kane grabbing a second of the game and third of the tournament, and substitute Jordan Henderson adding a fourth.

It was dreamland for Southgate and his team, who can now look forward to Wednesday after a game against Denmark in front of 60,000 fans.

England’s manager has delivered back-to-back semi-finals in major tournaments to justify the FA’s conviction that he is their man for the long term.

It is hard to argue with that faith on the back of this. Southgate still has to convince his fiercest critics, but his record in the job is beyond question.

Once again, he pitched this perfectly. Both in terms of his messaging in the build-up to a game that everyone expected England to come through and the team he picked on the night.

Jadon Sancho was handed his first start and was outstanding.

So was Luke Shaw – playing in a restored back four after Southgate switched his shape for Germany.

But it has been his unwavering faith in Raheem Sterling and Kane that has paid off most for him as he stands 90 minutes from European Championship Final.

Kane, who had looked so listless in his opening three games, scored twice, while Sterling remains England’s outstanding performer.

They combined as England got off to the perfect start with Kane opening the scoring after four minutes.

Sterling was the architect – cutting in from the left and splitting Ukraine’s defence with a through ball that Kane toe-poked past Georgi Bushchan.

It was England’s quickest goal at the Euros for 17 years – but there were recent enough reminders that a quickfire start can soon go wrong.

Early goals against Iceland in 2016 and Croatia in the World Cup semi-final did not prevent ultimate heartbreak for the Three Lions.

The goal typified a positive first half, with Kane heading over from a Luke Shaw free kick and Declan Rice forcing a save with a fierce long-range effort.

Ukraine had their chances too, with Jordan Pickford denying Roman Yaremchuk on the angle – but England doubled their lead almost immediately after the break to put the game beyond doubt.

Kane was brought down on the left, giving Shaw the chance to deliver another set piece.

A perfect free kick found Manchester United team-mate Maguire on the edge of the six-yard box and he powered a header home in the 46th minute.

Moments later England had all but guaranteed their place in the last four when Kane struck again – with Shaw the provider once more after linking up with Sterling on the left.

It was 4-0 after 63 minutes – this time Henderson getting on the end of a set piece when heading home Mason Mount’s corner.

By that stage Southgate could start to make preparations for the semis by ringing the changes.

With that England lost much of the fluidity that had been too much for Ukraine to handle – but the job had long been done.

England are heading home – in the best possible sense of the term.

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