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Bellingham and Kane save England in dramatic extra-time win over Slovakia

Who else but Jude Bellingham? He said it himself during the wild celebrations. It had to be Bellingham, England’s star player, saving the team and Gareth Southgate with a brilliant act when all seemed lost.

Six minutes of added time were on the board, and England were losing to Ivan Schranz’s goal for Slovakia. The obituaries were ready. But then Bellingham stepped up. He hadn’t been great until then, but neither had his teammates. The 21-year-old refused to give up. Who else could have had the same belief?

Southgate’s team had been poor, much like their group stage displays. But when Marc Guéhi flicked on a long Kyle Walker throw-in, Bellingham found space and nailed an overhead kick. It was beautiful technique.

England got their lifeline with this crucial late goal in a knockout game. When things get tough, England usually crumble. Not this time. They pushed hard at the start of extra time.

Harry Kane had struggled as much as anyone and looked far from fit. But when Ivan Toney headed a mishit Eberechi Eze shot across the six-yard box, Kane was there to head it home.

Southgate will mark his 100th game as England’s manager against Switzerland in the quarter-finals on Saturday. This was emotional. Have England found their spark?

England felt the nerves at the start. They were sloppy, and the referee looked edgy too, handing out early yellow cards, including one for Guéhi, who will miss the Switzerland match due to suspension. Guéhi was put in trouble by Kieran Trippier and had to tackle David Strelec. This set the tone for England’s poor passing.

England were tough to watch in the first half, slow with the ball because options were missing. They often checked inside, frustrating the many England fans in the crowd.

At 29 minutes, Jordan Pickford came out of his area to help in the build-up, urging more urgency. Soon after, Trippier looked up the left, signalled nothing was on, and passed back, causing howls from the stands.

There were heated discussions among the England players, shown on the big screen towards the end of the first half. England were booed off at halftime, having not managed a shot on target.

Slovakia had shown their intent. They realised there was nothing to fear. David Hancko had two close chances, and Lukas Haraslin had a shot blocked by Guéhi, with Trippier clearing the danger.

England were in disarray after John Stones and Guéhi went for the same aerial ball, which Juraj Kucka won. Strelec set Schranz free behind Guéhi, and the finish was easy.

England improved after the restart, playing with more tempo. Phil Foden had a goal ruled out for offside, and Kane saw a shot deflect wide. Yet England still frustrated and looked shaky. Walker and Stones had a mix-up that allowed Strelec to shoot from halfway, narrowly missing.

Southgate brought on Cole Palmer for Trippier, moving Bukayo Saka to left-back. It was a do-or-die move from the manager. Could England create something?

They did, but it didn’t seem enough. Kane missed a great header from a Foden cross, and Declan Rice hit the post, with Kane volleying the rebound over. But Bellingham hadn’t given up on the script.

Slovakia will hate watching the replay, too many defenders were drawn to Guéhi on Walker’s throw-in. When Guéhi flicked it on, Bellingham took over. Cue the celebration.

Moments earlier, Southgate had brought on Toney for Foden, switching to a 3-5-2 formation. Eze moved to left wing-back, with Saka at right wing-back. Toney made the difference at the start of extra time, setting up Kane. England then saw out the game with a 5-4-1 formation, bringing on Ezri Konsa and Conor Gallagher. Toney almost scored a third but shot high. England live to fight another day.

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