Football Soccer England hang on to beat Serbia 1 0 with Bellingham
Football Soccer England hang on to beat Serbia 1 0 with Bellingham

Football: Soccer-England hang on to beat Serbia 1-0 with Bellingham header

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (Reuters) -A powerful first-half header by Jude Bellingham sent England on the way to a successful launch of their Euro 2024 campaign with a 1-0 win over Serbia on Sunday that began in assured fashion but saw the Three Lions clinging on by the end.

Bellingham stormed into the box to connect with Bukayo Saka’s deflected cross that sailed across the box perfectly for the 20-year-old midfielder to put the Euro 2020 runners-up ahead from close range in the 13th minute.

Bellingham, who began the move himself, set the tempo for much of England’s attacking play in the Group C clash and was cheered to the rafters of the cavernous Arena AufSchalke by the army of England fans bellowing his name.

Gareth Southgate’s attack-minded team initially found space down the right as Saka linked up with full back Kyle Walker, whose surging runs in the first 45 minutes threatened to help add to England’s advantage.

But Serbia upped their game at the start of the second half as they brought on Ivan Ilic for defensive midfielder Nemanja Gudelj, and before long striker Dusan Vlahovic swept a cross dangerously across England’s box, rousing their fans.

Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic doubled down on his switch to a more attacking shape as Dusan Tadic and Luka Jovic came off the bench with just over an hour played.

Southgate responded by introducing the hard-running Conor Gallagher – replacing Trent Alexander-Arnold playing in an unfamiliar midfield role – and another substitute Jarrod Bowen crossed for captain Harry Kane, whose header was deflected onto the bar by goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic in the 77th minute.

Five minutes later, a fierce Vlahovic shot was tipped over by Jordan Pickford as Serbia kept up the pressure.

But England, with an unfamiliar-looking defence that featured Marc Guehi playing in a major tournament for the first time and right-footed Kieran Trippier standing in as left back, held out for the win.

The result put England top of the group after Denmark and Slovenia drew 1-1 earlier on Sunday. England play Denmark on Thursday when Serbia take on Slovenia.

(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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