‘Bellingham writes his own script’: Southgate waxes lyrical after England edge past Serbia

Jason Soutar
England manager Gareth Southgate smiles after a win
Gareth Southgate smiles after a win

Gareth Southgate was high in praise of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jude Bellingham after England beat Serbia 1-0 on Sunday.

England kicked off their Euro 2024 campaign with a win over Serbia in Gelsenkirchen, with Bellingham scoring the only goal of the game after 13 minutes.

It was a superb first-half performance from Southgate’s men before an improved Serbia side gave the Three Lions something to think about.

Bellingham was rightly named Player of the Match after an outstanding performance, particularly in the opening 45 minutes.

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Speaking after the game, Southgate admitted that England being forced to “suffer” in the night was actually a “really good thing”.

England boss Southgate: ‘Bellingham writes his own script’

He said: “They are a strong team. We had to suffer a bit which I think is really good for us. I think to defend the box the way we did was really good for us. I was really pleased with a lot of the play. Second half we didn’t keep it as well as I would have liked but to get the win is very important.

“I am confident we will score goals. Playing against a back five it is not easy to create chances and we did. I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week. We were obviously much better than last week (against Iceland) at doing that.”

On Bellingham, Southgate added: “He writes his own script. The timing of his runs. It was a super bit of play in the build-up of his play. I think all of our forward players looked really good.”

Asked about Alexander-Arnold’s performance in midfield, Southgate said: “I have to say, he has been really diligent in getting his positioning right. I think he adapted and adjusted really well and used the ball well. We have got a squad and we need to use it.”

Alexander-Arnold enjoys midfield showing v Serbia

Alexander-Arnold, who played next to Declan Rice in midfield, said after the win: “To get the win was what our objective was. It is very important to start a tournament with a win.

“Definitely don’t lose the game but we know we have the quality to win the game and we proved that today. We had to earn it but those are the ones that feel even better. We have defended excellently.”

“I found it good (playing in the middle). Physically demanding. But when you are playing with Declan, Jude and with a experienced back four behind you, and Jude and Declan who communicate really well, it’s hard to go wrong.”

Guehi: England ‘need to focus and improve’

Marc Guehi impressed in his first tournament start for the Three Lions, helping his side keep a clean sheet against the physical Serbian strikeforce of Dusan Vlahovic and Aleksander Mitrovic.

Speaking after the match, the Crystal Palace centre-back said: “I am very happy with the performance. It’s always hard to get off to a good start in a major tournament. The most important thing was to get the win and we did that. We need to focus now, improve and on to the next one.

“For me, I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great atmosphere and I am just grateful top play with such experienced players.

“They make it easier for me to play in my position and they help me and the team. It is a more of a team performance and I am just glad to have top professionals around me.

“Very, very important. If we are going to go far in this tournament, we are going to have to suffer and it was a great test for us.

“It is a good learning curve for the team and hopefully we can take it on to the next game.”

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