Raheem Sterling fires England to victory over Croatia in opening Euro 2020 clash

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Raheem Sterling fired England to a tense 1-0 victory over Croatia in their opening fixture of Euro 2020. The result means redemption for Gareth Southgate and his team after they defeated the side who sent them crashing out of the 2018 World Cup in extra-time.

Early on, Phil Foden struck fear into the Croatia defence as he found a yard on his left-foot to cut in and curl a shot against the base of the post.

The superb Kalvin Phillips then lashed an eye-catching volley which stung the ‘keeper’s hands before Croatia eventually rode the storm of England’s fast start and grew into the game.

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After a slow start to the second-half, Raheem Sterling broke the deadlock after being slid in by Phillips and nicking it past the onrushing goalkeeper to bag his first tournament goal for the Three Lions.

Gaining momentum, England almost doubled their lead minutes later when Harry Kane latched onto a back-post cross before ultimately fluffing the strike.

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Croatia upped the pace as they realised defeat may be on the horizon, but England were calm and collected as they saw the narrow victory over the line. 

The Three Lions can rejoice in their strong start to Euro 2020, while all eyes will be on tomorrow’s game involving Scotland and Czech Republic as the other two members of Group D prepare to battle it out.

In the aftermath of the tie, Raheem Sterling rolled his eyes when asked if he had justified his selection after scoring the winner. 

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The likes of Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford had been heavily discussed in the lead-up to the tournament, but it was the big game experience of Sterling which eventually tempted Southgate. 

In response to the question, the match winner simply said: “I’m trying.”

Sterling also said: “I always said to myself if I come here, growing up two minutes down the road, I know I have to score here. It was a great feeling to actually do it.

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“There’s a lot of different reasons why I haven’t scored for my club and it’s totally irrelevant now. I’m here with England and I’m enjoying my football. That’s the most important thing.

“It’s been a long season for me but I couldn’t wait to get here and get started with England.”

Kalvin Phillips was a peripheral figure in England discussions leading up to the tournament, but the Leeds midfielder shone on a blazing afternoon at Wembley Stadium. 

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Phillips said: “It’s the first time I have found him [Raheem Sterling] with a pass since I’ve linked up with England.

“It’s a great feeling to get an assist and a great feeling for the three points. I’m laid back – that’s the kind of person I am regardless of what is thrown at me. I just try and take it in my stride.

“There’s a lot of talk about me and Declan Rice fighting for one position but when we play together, I think we play really well.”

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Manager Gareth Southgate was also full of praise for Phillips, saying after the game: “I think that Kalvin is a player who is so understated and who has had a fantastic start to his international career.

“He was immense throughout the game, as they all were.

“I’m so pleased for Raheem. He’s had this hex, if you like, at tournaments with not being able to get a goal. I thought he was dangerous with his play right from the start.”

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