Mainoo makes history as England reach final

Wednesday 10 July 2024 22:37

Manchester United's representatives in the England squad - Kobbie Mainoo, Luke Shaw and training goalkeeper Tom Heaton - had a fantastic night in Dortmund as the Three Lions dramatically beat the Netherlands 2-1 in the Euro 2024 semi-final.

For Mainoo, it was another landmark night in his burgeoning career as he became the youngest player to start a European Championship or World Cup semi-final for England, at the age of just 19 years and 82 days.

Shaw missed out on a place in the XI, despite proving his fitness as a substitute in the quarter-final triumph over Switzerland, but he only had to wait until the beginning of the second half to enter the fray. He came on as a natural left-back replacement for right-footed Kieran Trippier.

As the clock ticked towards the 90th minute and seemingly another period of extra-time for England, another sub, Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins, turned inside the penalty area to fire a brilliant finish across goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen and win a finely balanced contest. Mainoo was present in the build-up, putting pressure on the Dutch midfield before Cole Palmer supplied the assist.
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Earlier in the second half, Bukayo Saka had a 'goal' ruled out when the team-mate who crossed low into the box, Kyle Walker, was ruled offside. But the Netherlands were arguably the better side after half-time, with former Reds striker Wout Weghorst making his presence felt after coming on for the restart.

Harry Kane's penalty cancelled out Xavi Simons' impressive opener in the first period, when Mainoo was one of the best players on the pitch in another accomplished performance by the Academy graduate.

Speaking to BBC Five Live after the game, Kobbie said: "It's an indescribable feeling, we're all buzzing. It's been such a journey to get here. I feel like we've built on all the performances that we've had leading to this point, and I feel like the only way is up. It's time to put ourselves into history.

"We had the game under control in the middle of the park. And I feel like in the second half we just had to grind it out. It was tough but the whole squad was a help, with the impact off the bench from Cole and Ollie. What a finish!

"My [England journey] has happened quick. But, I've just been taking it day by day, game by game. And now we're in the European Championship final."
Mainoo and Manchester City's Phil Foden were playing as if they were still at the Stockport parks where they grew up, comfortably passing the ball around and threatening the Netherlands on several occasions with their Mancunican combinations.

Simons' thunderous long-range strike provided a stunning start to the second semi-final in Dortmund, fully punishing Declan Rice for conceding possession with a powerful shot that flew past Jordan Pickford in the seventh minute.

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England grew into the game and Kane had one shot well saved by Bart Verbruggen, before his next attempt led to the equaliser. As the skipper sent a volley over the bar, his striking foot was painfully caught by Dutch defender Denzel Dumfries and although the referee initially overlooked the challenge, a VAR check persuaded him to reconsider and award a penalty. Kane converted it for 1-1 in the 18th minute.

Dumfries was heavily involved in the first 45, as he also cleared a Foden effort off the line after the City forward was brilliantly fed by Mainoo, and smashed a header against England's crossbar at the other end. Foden also hit the woodwork, and Mainoo had a shot blocked by Nathan Ake after nicking the ball off Cody Gakpo and producing another trademark run towards the Dutch defence.

Despite the positive introduction of Shaw, the pendulum swung towards the Netherlands in the second half in terms of possession.
Kobbie Mainoo | Playing With Freedom Video

Kobbie Mainoo | Playing With Freedom

PLAYING WITH FREEDOM | Here's another chance to watch Kobbie's session with our Under-9s, from earlier in 2024…

With Weghorst regularly being joined by centre-backs Virgil van Dijk and Stefan de Vrij in attacking Joey Veerman's free-kicks, England had their defensive work cut out, while they were largely unable to threaten Verbruggen's goal until Saka's disallowed effort.

But in the end, Watkins produced a moment of magic and the Three Lions players and staff went into raptures on the Dortmund pitch. When the jubilation ceased and play resumed for the final few minutes of injury time, Mainoo was replaced by Chelsea midfielder Conor Gallagher as England saw out their hard-fought but excellent 2-1 triumph.

Congratulations to Kobbie, Luke and Tom, and here's to England's first final in a tournament held overseas - against Spain in Berlin on Sunday (kick-off 20:00 BST).