England begins Euro 2024 campaign with win over Serbia

Jude Bellingham inspired England to the start they wanted at Euro 2024 with the winning goal and a stunning individual performance in the victory over Serbia in Gelsenkirchen.

Bellingham's dream season – which brought him a Champions League triumph at the end of his first campaign with Real Madrid – continued as he demonstrated exactly why he is regarded as England's new superstar.

The 20-year-old powered on to the end of Bukayo Saka's deflected cross with a magnificent header after 13 minutes as Gareth Southgate's side were rewarded for an impressive opening.

England, who started with Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold in midfield, fell back into old habits after the break as they sat back, their reduced intensity allowing Serbia to apply pressure. Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford made an important late save from Dusan Vlahovic.

Harry Kane came close to adding a second for England when he saw a header from substitute Jarrod Bowen's cross superbly touched on to the bar by Serbia keeper Predrag Rajkovic.

England will need to improve, but this was at least a result that will send them into their second Group C game against Denmark on Thursday in good heart.

Bellingham's imperious display, mixing glorious natural talent with an air of quality and arrogance, was a graphic illustration of why he carries so much of England's hope for this next month on his young shoulders.

The former Birmingham and Borussia Dortmund player shows astonishing maturity for one so young, bolstered by a season in which he took Spain by storm – and England are the beneficiaries as they look to end a sequence of falling short at major tournaments.

Photo credit: Getty Images

He showed power and conviction to score that stunning header, while his composure on the ball even in the tightest situations was a powerful and potent weapon for Southgate's team.

Bellingham relishes the freedom the number 10 role gives him, offering him licence to exert influence all over the pitch as the fulcrum of this England side.

He departed late on to a standing ovation from the England fans who have made him their new idol, relishing the sight of him performing his trademark arms-outstretched celebration in front of supporters at one end after his goal before running to the centre circle to whip up England's followers at the other.

Bellingham was even seen smiling on the big screens as he sat relaxed in the dugout in the closing seconds after another high point in his stunning year.

England and Southgate will now hope for more from their talisman as the Euro 2024 campaign progresses in Germany.

Winning was exactly what manager Southgate wanted, but this was far from perfect as England made hard work of putting away a workmanlike but uninspiring Serbia.

The Euro 2020 runners-up looked on course to comfortably dispatch Serbia after getting that early lead but, as so often has been the case in the past, there was a drop-off after half-time that encouraged their opponents, Pickford coming to the rescue.

England had major positives in the performances of Arsenal's Bukayo Saka, who looked refreshed and particularly dangerous in the first half, while Crystal Palace defender Marc Guehi did everything required as John Stones' new partner.

Southgate was insistent starting with three points was paramount in the group. The objective was achieved but not without leaving the manager issues to pore over before England play Denmark.

Alexander-Arnold showed how he can add an extra attacking dimension in midfield, but he also conceded possession in dangerous territory, particularly when Aleksandar Mitrovic shot narrowly wide in the first half.

England's left side of Kieran Trippier and Phil Foden did not function anywhere near expectation. Foden, a player who performed so superbly in Manchester City's Premier League title win, was an unusually peripheral figure.

For now, the win will satisfy Southgate, but there is plenty to work on.

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