Saka scores wonder goal as England ease past Ukraine

There was plenty of sympathy for war-ravaged Ukraine around Wembley Stadium with 1,000 tickets donated to refugees

By Reuters

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England's Bukayo Saka scores the team's second goal against Ukraine. — Reuters
England's Bukayo Saka scores the team's second goal against Ukraine. — Reuters

Published: Sun 26 Mar 2023, 10:50 PM

Last updated: Sun 26 Mar 2023, 10:51 PM

Harry Kane underlined his status as England's greatest international goalscorer and Bukayo Saka dazzled again in a comfortable 2-0 win over Ukraine to put Gareth Southgate's team in control of Euro 2024 qualifying Group C on Sunday.

Fresh from scoring his 54th goal in the 2-1 victory over Italy on Thursday, Kane made up for a couple of missed chances to break the stalemate in the 37th minute.

Arsenal youngster Saka, again England's brightest spark, then doubled the lead before halftime with a sensational curler that left the visitors and their 4,000 fans deflated.

"That (goal) was definitely up there. As soon as it left my foot I knew it would be on target so it was one of my better goals," Saka told Channel 4.

"I think it was an excellent team performance and a quick turnaround from the last game. We're happy with the three points.

"I think we've been really mature. We can't just look past these games and magically be in the Euros. We have to qualify first. Football is fun and it's always fun. I just hope the happiness can continue to the end of the season."

Ukraine had their moments and enjoyed some pressure after the interval but never really looked capable of claiming only a second victory over England in 10 attempts.

The second half was tepid although it was noteworthy for an international debut for Brentford forward Ivan Toney who came on 10 minutes from the end as a substitute for Kane.

The 2022 World Cup quarterfinalists have six points from their opening two games and already look firm favourites to top a group that also contains Malta and North Macedonia.

Ukraine, who came agonisingly close to qualifying for the World Cup but lost a playoff to Wales, will be relieved to have got their toughest fixture out of the way.

There was plenty of sympathy for war-ravaged Ukraine around Wembley Stadium with 1,000 tickets donated to refugees and their sponsor families and the country's anthem warmly-applauded.

But all sentiment was put to one side once the whistle sounded with England focussed only on building on their first victory in 62 years against Italy on Italian soil.

It took them a while to get going, however, as Ukraine comfortably kept the hosts at bay for most of the first half.

Kane, who was presented with a golden boot beforehand, was missing two routine chances, first fluffing a close-range volley and then prodding an inviting James Maddison delivery over.

But when he got a third chance he made no mistake.

Having passed the ball out to Saka, the captain then ghosted into the area and was picked out by the Arsenal's man cross to touch the ball past Ukraine keeper Anatoliy Trubin.

Three minutes later Saka produced a goal of stunning quality, turning on to Jordan Henderson's pass and curling a shot into the top corner.

Ukraine, who had a couple of half chances early on, showed plenty of energy after the interval but did not have the quality to ruffle and England side in cruise control.

It could have been a bigger margin of victory if substitutes Conor Gallagher and Jack Grealish, left out in favour of Maddison, had converted chances although by that time thousands of England fans had decided to get to the station early.

Ukraine's fans stayed until the end, however, and gave their team a rousing ovation in a corner that was a sea of yellow and blue. Their next game will be against North Macedonia in June while England are away in Malta next.



England 2 Ukraine 0

Kazakhstan 3 Denmark 2

Slovenia 2 San Marino 0

Liechtenstein 0 Iceland 7


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