Bellingham and Kane save England from an ignominious exit from the Euro 2024 tournament.

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Jude Bellingham produced a moment of genius to keep England in Euro 2024 as they survived another desperate display and a huge scare to beat Slovakia in dramatic fashion to reach the last eight.

England were seconds away from an embarrassing exit in Gelsenkirchen as Slovakia defended a lead they had held since the 25th minute when Ivan Schranz raced into the box to poke a low finish past England keeper Jordan Pickford.

It was then that Bellingham, who celebrated his 21st birthday on Saturday, demonstrated the brilliance that has made him England’s new superstar by going airborne in the penalty area to send Marc Guehi’s headed flick past Martin Dubravka with a stunning overhead kick.

Bellingham rescued England from a performance that plumbed such depths that his goal was their first effort on target – but then set the platform for a victory as Slovakia, who had defended so stubbornly, were left stunned.

And captain Harry Kane emphasised England’s sudden superiority a minute into the extra 30 minutes when he headed home from close range to complete a remarkable turnaround and set up a quarter-final meeting with Switzerland.

England’s display before Bellingham’s wonder goal was another to add to the catalogue of mediocrity they have delivered under Gareth Southgate in Germany, even though Kane had missed an easy header and Declan Rice struck a post as they strived for the equaliser.

Bellingham, the young man with the Midas touch, came up with the goods to save them at the death as England’s stuttering Euro 2024 journey goes on.

England’s great escape

England’s hopes looked lost as they went into the closing moments against Slovakia, with even their own fans reduced to subdued silence by the lack of quality and inspiration they had been forced to witness.

Southgate and his players will have known what awaited them had Slovakia closed out a win that would surely have left the manager at the end of his reign and England nowhere to go other than to make a bitterly disappointing retreat from Germany.

Bellingham, whose own poor performances and demeanour have come under scrutiny after England’s draws against Denmark and Slovenia in Group C, then illustrated why is regarded as a new young superstar of the game with an audacious, acrobatic piece of individuality.

Kane finished off the job with a trademark poacher’s finish and the supporters who were bracing themselves to turn on players and manager were then celebrating the most unlikely – plenty would say undeserved – triumph.

England and Southgate will hope Bellingham’s goal will prove to be a tournament-turning moment and finally ignite a campaign which had not got off the ground – and rarely showed any signs of doing so here.

And, to bring England back to reality, it was not an encounter that would leave an impressive Switzerland with any terrors as they prepare for the quarter-final.

Amid some stiff competition, England’s first 45 minutes were their worst of Euro 2024 as they were horribly vulnerable at the back, chaotic in all areas of the pitch and lacking threat up front.

The introduction of Chelsea’s Cole Palmer enlivened England, once again raising questions about Southgate’s decision not to start him after his impressive cameo against Slovenia and to only make one change as he brought in Kobbie Mainoo for Conor Gallagher.

England and Southgate will have plenty to ponder once the celebrations and the dust settles on this hair-raising escape from humiliation – because that is exactly what it was.

England victory comes at a price

England manager Gareth Southgate will have to make at least one enforced change when they face Switzerland in the last eight as he will be deprived of defender Marc Guehi after he picked up a second yellow card.

Guehi was unfortunate as he was placed in tough position by Kieran Trippier’s dreadful pass after only three minutes.

He then showed his mentality for the big stage by safely negotiating the rest of normal time plus the extra 30 minutes without further brushes with Turkish referee Umut Meler, who was more than willing to brandish yellow cards, also booking Bellingham and Mainoo inside the first 20 minutes.

For all the criticism England have justifiably received for their displays so far, Guehi has emerged as arguably their best player, a calm and composed presence alongside John Stones.

He will be annoyed he allowed Schranz to get in behind him for Slovakia’s goal but Guehi also made some crucial interventions as England wobbled so badly in the first half. He will be missed against the Swiss.

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