Arsenal pair Saka and Rice help England to Euro 2024 final after beating Netherlands 2-1

Gareth Southgate's England have won through to the final where they will face Spain in Berlin on Sunday

Arsenal pair Saka and Rice help England to Euro 2024 final after beating Netherlands 2-1

The England team including Arsenal duo Bukayo Saka and Declan Rice celebrate Ollie Watkins' winner for the Three Lions. CREDIT: @laythy29

Netherlands 1–2 England: Report by Layth Yousif at Westfahlen Stadion

Substitute Ollie Watkins’ superbly-taken last-gasp winner sent England, this England, through to the final of the 2024 European Championships on a dramatic evening in Dortmund.

In Germany’s former industrial heartland Gareth Southgate’s steely Three Lions forged a route to Sunday’s showpiece match in Berlin, where they will face Spain, in their second Euro final in a row after 2022.

Watkins, who a decade ago was No9 for Weston-Super-Mare, has now carved his name on a hallowed list of England goalscorer’s in momentous matches – after the 28-year-old Aston Villa forward’s excellent finish was enough to seal victory in Wednesday’s dramatic semi-final against Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands side at a raucous Westfahlen.

Watkins’ 90th minute strike clinched a remarkable turnaround for Southgate’s previously beleaguered side - and while England fans were outnumbered off the pitch by an estimated 80,000 Dutch fans descending on the centre of Dortmund, turning it orange in the process, the Three Lions’ vociferous and unstinting support was never outgunned.  

Southgate’s side showed superb reserves of character and mental fortitude after falling behind for a third successive match.

As expected, boss Southgate made a single change from the team that started the dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over the Swiss in Dusseldorf last weekend. The suspended Marc Guehi replacing Ezri Konza. With Dutch boss Koeman also making a single change with former Arsenal academy graduate Donyell Malyen replacing Steven Bergwijn.

In a lively start, Xavi Simons dispossessed Declan Rice who slipped, as the 21-year-old Amsterdam-born attacker unleashed a superb long-range strike that flew past Jordan Pickford for the goal of the tournament so far – as the Oranjie Wall behind the action erupted in deep, booming joy.

Unbowed, Harry Kane tested Brighton’s Bart Verbruggen in the Dutch goal on 13 minutes. Prior to Bukayo Saka driving into the box, as Kane fired over the bar with England attempting to get back into the game.

However, with many in the crowd still applauding Saka’s arrowing run into the box which led to the Bayern Munich striker’s shot, VAR instructed referee Felix Zwayer to head to the monitor following Denzil Dumfries challenge – which was deemed reckless on Kane - moments after his shot.

To the delight of the tens of thousands of England fans massed behind the goal, Zwayer – who was banned after a match fixing scandal in Germany relating back to 2005 – changed his mind and awarded a penalty.

Up stepped the redoubtable Kane, whose perfectly calibrated spot-kick evaded the despairing dive of Verbruggen to level the scores at 1-1 to grab his third goal of this tournament with only 18 minutes gone in a pulsating opening.

Five minutes later, Dumfries, desperate to make amends cleared off the line from Phil Foden after the Manchester City midfielder jinxed into the box.

On 29 minutes, Dumfries was again in the action as the 26-year-old Inter Milan defender emphatically steered his header onto Pickford’s bar from Simons’ corner, but to England’s relief the ball flew over.

Reenergised England – with Foden, in particular, on fire – it was Southgate’s side’s turn next to hit the woodwork in an thrilling opening half hour, as the City midfielder’s long-ranger curling effort clipped Verbruggen’s far post.

Everywhere you looked England display talent. Fittingly in the stadium that hosted the original Johann Cruyff, the audacious Kobbie Mainoo performed an equisite flick to free Foden, alllowing him the space to unleash his fine effort.  

Koeman – unafraid to make early changes in this tournament - swapped Memphis Depay replaced by Joey Verman on 34 minutes, even if it transpired the influential 30-year-old picked up an injury.

Southgate swapped Trippier for Luke Shaw at the break, with England aiming to utilise a genuine left-footed defender down that troublesome flank, even if it was prompted by the Newcastle defender picking up a groin injury.

Midway through the second half Pickford made an excellent save from Virgil Van Dijk’s effort, before gathering safely from the dangerous Simons’ with 15 minutes remaining.

Saka steered the ball into the net, promoting momentary celebrations among the England contingent, but the effort was correctly ruled offside after Walker was found to be offside in the build-up.

With ten minutes remaining Southgate swapped Kane for Watkins while Cole Palmer replaced Foden, as the Three Lions hunted a winner.

As the clock ticked down, it was Saka’s turn to go into the book, following Bellingham’s tired challenge on Stefan De Vrij which prompted Zwayer to reach for a yellow card.

However, just as many in this raucously atmospheric stadium were gearing up for extra time, up stepped Watkins to write his name into the stars for all eternity.

Now onto Berlin, with the thought of England’s men’s side joining their Lionesses counterparts in lifting the European Championship – with Southgate’s side aiming to win a trophy abroad for the first time in its history.

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