England THROUGH to Euro 2024 final after super-sub Ollie Watkins’ last-minute stunner downs Holland

England THROUGH to Euro 2024 final after super-sub Ollie Watkins’ last-minute stunner downs Holland

FOR weeks on end, we had been screaming at Gareth Southgate to make substitutions.

And here in Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, on the outskirts of Utopia, the England manager went and made the greatest double substitution in the history of his national team.

GettyOllie Watkins scored a stunning last-minute winner for England[/caption]

It was a remarkably dramatic end to a back-and-forth semi-finalGetty

Watkins was the unlikely hero for Gareth Southgate’s menPA

Watkins came on for captain Harry Kane and immediately made an impactEPA

Gareth Southgate has guided England to back-to-back Euros finalsReuters

Xavi Simons gave Netherlands the lead with a brilliant strikeReuters

AFPThe venomous effort flew beyond the dive of England keeper Jordan Pickford[/caption]

Simons’ seventh-minute strike was the perfect start for the DutchGetty

England were awarded a penalty after the referee deemed Denzel Dumfries had fouled Kane following a reviewPA

AFPKane dispatched the penalty into the bottom corner to bring the Three Lions level[/caption]

It is Kane’s third goal of the Euros despite a difficult campaign for the England manGetty

EPADumfries cleared Phil Foden’s effort off the line with keeper Bart Verbruggen beaten[/caption]

Match Stats

The match swung back and forth throughout

Watkins had just four touches but scored the all important winner

The goal was his only touch inside the box

With 81 minutes on the clock, and England being pinned back by the Dutch after an excellent first half, Southgate sent on Ollie Watkins and Cole Palmer in place of England’s all-time record scorer, Harry Kane, and the Footballer of the Year, Phil Foden.

And then, in the 90th minute, Palmer passed to Aston Villa hitman Watkins,who swivelled and drilled a shot into the bottom corner.

Suddenly, the Netherlands were defeated and England were in Never-Never Land – Sunday’s final against Spain in Berlin.

Southgate had been criticised and ridiculed in recent weeks but here was making a masterful tactical switch which earned England a second successive Euros final.

England have now come from behind to win in three successive knock-out matches.

This team’s bottle is undoubted – and here, as Kane’s penalty levelled Xavi Simons’ early opener – they turned on the style with an outstanding first half full of verve and purpose.

This was one of those rarest of nights – England in a major semi-final overseas.

Like Turin with Gazza’s tears in 1990 and Moscow in 2018, when England tossed away a lead against Croatia during Southgate’s feelgood waistcoat era.

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The weight of history seemed to hanging heavily in the air, or maybe it was just the intense humidity which forced a spectacular cloudburst an hour before kick-off.

Dortmund’s famous Yellow Wall was turned orange and England’s supporters were outnumbered to such an extent that this felt like an away match.

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Southgate, ever-cautious, selected his usual team – only Marc Guehi returning from a ban in place of Ezri Konsa.

He had been convincing himself, if not the rest of us, that they’d been playing well.

Still, now England were here, it hardly mattered how they’d arrived. All that mattered was this.

They played ‘Three Lions’ before kick-off. Thirty years of hurt were threatening to become sixty years unless this team could stick the history books, and the formbook, through the shredder.

Yet the first time the Dutch attacked, they scored after seven minutes.

Declan Rice was mugged by Xavi Simons, who advanced and rocketed a shot past Jordan Pickford into the far corner.

An 𝐮𝐧𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 strike

Xavi Simons brings pure Dutch delight to Dortmund! #Euro2024#NEDENG pic.twitter.com/PNKwNbQcUr

— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 10, 2024

Weirdly, though, England had started the game far more fluently than in any match since their opener against Serbia.

Saka, their goalscorer and man of the match in the quarter-final win over Switzerland, was full of delicious devilment.

And after Kane had a powerful drive pushed away from the bottom corner by Bart Verbruggen, it was Saka who plotted the course towards England’s equaliser.

The Arsenal man darted inside from the right, headed into a scrum of orange, then saw his pass deflected to Kane, who shot wide before he was caught by the boot of Denzel Dumfries.

At first, ref Felix Zwayer wasn’t interested but he was sent to his monitor and awarded what was very much a new-school slow-mo VAR penalty.

Kane stepped up and drilled it low to Verbruggen’s right. Doubted by most of us, the England captain was suddenly tied for the lead in the Golden Boot standings with three goals.

PENALTY TO ENGLAND!

1 – 1 #Euro2024#NEDENG pic.twitter.com/PNyM2gMai9

— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 10, 2024

It meant that England had scored all 13 of their penalties – including Saturday’s shoot-out – since Kane’s miss against France in Qatar.

Southgate’s men had conceded first in three successive knock-out matches but equalised each time.

Soon they were an inch away from taking the lead.

Kobbie Mainoo – such a positive addition to the England midfield – turned his man, surged forward and slipped a pass to Phil Foden, who attempted to pass it into the net but was denied by a Dumfries clearance on the line.

After four tedious matches in a row, this was a belter – and soon both sets of goalposts were being rocked.

From a Dutch corner, Dumfries took a mighty leap and headed against the bar.

Mainoo was everywhere for England against Netherlands

Then, Foden – in the sort of space he hadn’t been afforded all tournament – crashed a curling shot against the top of the post.

Like Foden, Mainoo was magnificent, twice winning the ball back on the edge of the Dutch area.

It was an insult that Southgate ever started right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, then Conor Gallagher, ahead of him.

England were vibrant, urgent, unrecognisable. They passed the ball, and pressed the opposition as if they meant it. Where had all this been before now?

At half-time, Southgate sent on Luke Shaw in place of Kieran Trippier, an authentic left-back to balance a team with its tails up.

Ronald Koeman introduced big Wout Weghorst – reversing national stereotypes, like Graham Taylor imploring ‘can we not knock it?’ in 1993.

John Stones was ever-present with his passing for England

Midway through the half, the Dutch began to get a foothold, winning a string of free-kicks, one of which was met by Van Dijk’s boot, forcing Pickford into a diving save.

Bellingham, whose frustrations had clearly been growing, was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a wild challenge on Stefan De Vrij.

England had been pinned back but suddenly they had the ball in the Dutch net.

Foden fed Kyle Walker, who cut back for Saka to ram home but the linesman felt Walker was marginally offside and the robots concurred.

Southgate withdrew a flagging Kane for Watkins and, surprisingly, hooked Foden rather than Bellingham to bring on Cole Palmer.

And then it happened, with 90 minutes on the clock, Palmer slipped a diagonal pass to Watkins, who turned De Vrij within a blink of an eye and drilled a shot low into the far corner.

The England subs invaded the pitch en masse. It was a moment that will live in the memory for decades.

HAS OLLIE WATKINS WON IT FOR ENGLAND?!

ASTON VILLA’S OLLIE WATKINS IS A SUPERSTAR SHOOTER! #Euro2024#NEDENG pic.twitter.com/67Zpbwg6QQ

— ITV Football (@itvfootball) July 10, 2024

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