England 2-1 Slovakia (aet): Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane keep Euro 2024 hopes alive in incredible comeback

England 2-1 Slovakia (aet): Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane keep Euro 2024 hopes alive in incredible comeback

England kept their Euro 2024 hopes alive with the most incredible late turnaround to break Slovakian hearts in Gelsenkirchen.

The pre-tournament favourites had looked to be crashing to a humiliating exit from the last 16 after another utterly abject display that followed their hugely underwhelming group stage showing, with Gareth Southgate seemingly mere seconds away from the possible embarrassing end of his eventful eight-year reign in charge with echoes of the Iceland debacle at Euro 2016 that curtailed Roy Hodgson’s tenure.

England had failed to muster a single shot on target in response to Ivan Schranz's smart first-half goal at Arena AufSchalke, until Jude Bellingham popped up in the final minute of six added on in second-half stoppage time with a simply sublime overhead kick to rescue the Three Lions and force a period of extra time - the first at this tournament so far.

Captain Harry Kane then headed in early in extra time to quickly dismiss any threat of penalties and complete a stunning comeback that teed up a quarter-final date with Switzerland - who stunned defending champions Italy 2-0 in Berlin yesterday - in Dusseldorf next Saturday night.

It was yet another shoddy start to proceedings from weary England, with Marc Guehi and Kobbie Mainoo - who started in place of Conor Gallagher in midfield in the only change from a woeful goalless draw with Slovenia in midweek to finish Group C - both picking up early bookings from card-happy Turkish referee Umut Meler and the first two meaningful chances falling to confident Slovakia, with Juraj Kucka and David Hancko both firing wide.

Guehi’s caution means he will be suspended for next weekend’s quarter-final showdown against Switzerland, having also been booked against Slovenia and yellow cards not being wiped until after the last eight. Bellingham also then went into the book as the first six fouls of the game incredibly resulted in four cautions.

Things went from bad to worse for England when Guehi and John Stones both went for the same ball and a huge gap opened up in the centre of the England defence, allowing striker David Strelec to play in Schranz for a smart finish from close range past Jordan Pickford with the outside of his boot.

Heroes: Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane netted in a remarkable England turnaround in the last 16 (AP)
Heroes: Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane netted in a remarkable England turnaround in the last 16 (AP)

England laboured badly again in search of a swift response to going behind for the first time at these Euros as a strong pro-England crowd continued to voice their frustrations, but piled on the pressure before the break, failing to make it pay as remarkably Southgate chose to make no personnel changes at half-time.

Nevertheless his side upped the tempo significantly in the second half, but the final ball was still seriously lacking other than Phil Foden tapping in Kieran Trippier’s pass and briefly celebrating an equaliser that was quickly and rightly chalked off for offside following a VAR check.

Kane later spurned a glorious England chance with a header from a free-kick that flew agonisingly wide of the post before Declan Rice thundered a long-range strike against the post and Kane could only skew over a difficult volley on the rebound.

Southgate finally sent on Cole Palmer with less than 25 minutes to play and switched Bukayo Saka to left-back following an injury to Trippier, with Chelsea’s player of the season again providing a decent spark off the bench.

But still England could not find the equaliser as they turned to Eberechi Eze and then Ivan Toney with time ticking down, until Guehi flicked on a last-gasp long throw-in from Kyle Walker at the near post and Bellingham effortlessly sent home a glorious bicycle kick to force extra time.

England struck again to complete an epic turnaround early in extra time, Kane heading in at the back post after Eze’s miscued strike had been helped on in his direction by the impactful Toney.

The Three Lions then retreated deeper and deeper as they tried to protect their new-found lead for most of the rest of extra time, getting somewhat fortunate during some nervy moments including Slovakia right-back Peter Pekarik failing to hit the target from close range after a wicked delivery from Laszlo Benes.

England could have had a third goal late on to kill off the game as Palmer led an incisive breakaway, but Toney could only lash wide before a final nervy period of Slovakian pressure came to nothing and Southgate’s men held on to set up a high-profile clash with Switzerland in the last eight.