Harry Kane scored twice as England eased to a 4-0 victory over Ukraine at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday to set up a Euro 2020 semi-final with Denmark on home soil.
England were riding the crest of a wave after beating Germany in the last 16 and, in their first game away from Wembley this tournament, took the lead inside four minutes when Raheem Sterling played in Kane.
That was England’s earliest European Championship goal since Michael Owen against Portugal in 2004 and the Three Lions added two more quickfire goals to their tally in the first five minutes of the second half through Harry Maguire and Kane.
Substitute Jordan Henderson’s first international goal gave Gareth Southgate further reason to cheer as his side kept their fifth clean sheet in a row from the start of the tournament, something only Italy have previously managed at a World Cup or Euros.
Sterling and Kane scored in England’s last-16 win against Germany and the pair combined for their side’s early opener in Rome, the Manchester City winger threading the ball through for his team-mate to poke past Georgi Bushchan.
England had failed to win any of the previous five European Championship games in which they had scored in the opening four minutes and they were given a warning when Jordan Pickford was tested by a Roman Yaremchuk strike.
The Three Lions continued to dominate possession but their only other on-target attempt of the first half came via a powerful Declan Rice drive that was routinely dealt with by Bushchan.
Ukraine were making just their second quarter-final appearance at a major tournament and ended the opening period on top, though they found themselves further behind 55 seconds into the second half when Maguire headed home.
Luke Shaw set up that goal and also played in the cross that Kane headed through the legs of Bushchan for England’s third, effectively killing off the contest with 40 minutes to play in the Italian capital.
England continued to search for goals and Henderson, just six minutes after replacing Rice, made the most of some terrible Ukraine defending to head in a fourth for Southgate’s side, who had little trouble in seeing out the win.
What does it mean? A date with Danish destiny up next for Three Lions
England had never previously won a knockout match at the European Championships inside 90 minutes prior to Tuesday’s win against Germany – well now they have done it twice in the space of four days and are into the semi-finals.
Bar a slightly nervy spell towards the end of the first half, the Three Lions were good value for their third successive win – something they had also previously failed to manage before in a single Euros tournament.
Denmark are up next at Wembley after beating Czech Republic 2-1. Should Southgate’s men come through that test then a first final appearance at any major tournament since 1966 – against either Spain or Italy – awaits in eight days’ time.
Sterling work from England’s main men
England’s early goal helped settle them into the game and it is perhaps little surprise that Kane and Sterling linked up, the latter cutting inside from the left and showing superb vision to find Kane for the first of his two goals.
That was the 10th time the pair have combined for an England goal, with Sterling assisting Kane six times – the most one player has assisted another for the Three Lions in all competitions this century.
Southgate’s Sancho decision
Plenty of focus was on Sancho on the back of this week’s confirmation that he is to join Manchester United in a big-money deal from Borussia Dortmund.
The winger was brought into the side for his first start of Euro 2020 and had some promising moments, but he did not manage a shot on target – his one attempt in the first half being ruled out for offside – and failed to touch the ball in the opposition box.
Key Opta Facts:
– England will play in their third semi-final at the European Championship, having previously done so in 1968 and 1996. – Gareth Southgate will be just the second England manager to take charge of England in the semi-final of both the World Cup and the European Championship, after Alf Ramsey in 1966 and 1968. – This was England’s biggest ever win at the European Championship, and their biggest win in the knockout stages of a major tournament. Indeed, England scored as many goals tonight as they had in their previous four EURO 2020 matches combined. – England have kept seven consecutive clean sheets for the first time in their history, with the Three Lions run without conceding currently standing at 662 minutes. – Raheem Sterling has provided six assists for Harry Kane for England in all competitions, more than any England player has assisted another in the 21st century. – Jordan Henderson’s goal was his first for England in his 62nd appearance for the Three Lions. Of all players to score at least once for England, Henderson’s 62 games is the longest a player has ever had to wait (previously Sol Campbell, 47).
England will head back to Wembley for their semi-final showdown with Denmark on Wednesday. As for Ukraine, they will return to action in September with a World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan.