Watkins Wonder Strike Wins it for England

by Ben Ayuko

{images by AP}


England managed to eke out a cheeky 2-1 victory over the Netherlands in the European Championship semi-finals.

And it was all thanks to Ollie Watkins. He couldn’t have written himself a better script at the start of the season. He was probably growing angsty on the substitutes bench, wondering when he would get his chance to show himself to the world. And when the chance came to him, he wasted no time at all.

It was a very explosive start to the game as after just 6minutes, Xavi Simmons eased Declan Rice off the ball, took a touch and left England goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, floundering helplessly as he rifled the ball straight into the top corner. 1-0 to the Oranje, who looked primed and ready to meet La Roja in the final.

England’s response to the early setback was quite positive as they ended up having what many people consider their ‘best half of football’ in the tournament thus far. They peppered the Dutch goal with chance after chance, keeping Dutch goalkeeper, Bart Verbruggen, relatively busy without troubling him too much. Indeed, England needed some extra help once they were inside the box. And some would say they got it.

In what it is one of the most controversial decisions of the tournament, the referee awarded England an incredibly soft penalty. Denzel Dumfries, the defender in question, raised his foot to block the ball and from England Captain, Harry Kane’s, strike. This resulted in an England penalty. Reprieve for England as Kane dispatched the spot kick and drew them back level.

It was a tale 2 strikers in the 2nd half as Wout Weghorst’s introduction off the bench indeed had an impact on how his team played. With his large frame and deft footwork, he allowed a more direct kind of play that helped to set up Netherlands nicely, seeing more of the ball and putting more pressure on the England goal. It was, however, his opposite number Ollie Watkins who would steal the headlines today.

Running into space and latching onto a through-pass by fellow substitute Cole Palmer, Ollie Watkins executed what is quickly starting to look like his signature finishing move. From the tightest of angles, he used his first touch to set himself up and his second to laser the ball right through defender, Stefan de Vrij’s legs, past Verbruggen and into the bottom corner. A 90th minute winner to end all 90th minute winners. Using the little time, he was afforded to live the childhood dream of every single football fan. And it showed, with the effulgence of joy emanating from his face. What a way to realize your dreams, doing it for your nation.

Thanks to him, the 3 lions now have a date with Spain at the Euro Finals in what is promising to be a blockbuster of a game.

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