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Watch Declan Rice’s passionate defence of under-fire Gareth Southgate after last-gasp Slovakia heroics

DECLAN RICE passionately defended Gareth Southgate following England’s 2-1 win over Slovakia.

The Three Lions just about managed to book a spot in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals thanks to late goals from Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane.

PA

Declan Rice has jumped to the defence of Gareth Southgate[/caption]

Alamy

Southgate was heavily criticised throughout England’s match against Slovakia[/caption]

Ivan Schranz fired Slovakia into an unprecedented 1-0 lead midway through the first half.

England struggled to find a breakthrough, but managed to equalise thanks to a last-gasp Bellingham bicycle kick.

It then took just a few minutes for Kane to complete the comeback in extra time.

Southgate faced criticism from England fans inside the stadium and on social media for the performance.

But Rice was eager to jump to the manager’s defence at full-time.

He told BBC Sport: “There’s that inner-fight and spirit in us, a few Slovakian players before the game said we didn’t have.

“We’ve got that togetherness. We proved that tonight.

“We’ll die for each other out there. We’ll do anything to protect this manager, to protect each other.

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England ratings: Bellingham rescues woeful Three Lions as big names, and manager, have a shocker

JUDE BELLINGHAM’S majestic overhead kick deep into stoppage time saved England from a humiliating Euros exit.

Gareth Southgate’s side had been utterly woeful and looked to be heading home thanks to Ivan Schranz’s clever finish.

But Bellingham came to the rescue in the 96th minute, brilliantly firing into the corner after Marc Guehi had flicked on Kyle Walker’s long throw.

Remarkably, it was England’s first shot on target, summing how poor they had been.

But another one came soon after, as 53 seconds into extra-time, Harry Kane headed home from close range to set up a quarter-final with Switzerland.

It was as close a shave as it comes, and if they play like this against the Swiss, then they will be toast.

Here’s how Tom Barclay rated England’s stars… and manager Southgate.

Jordan Pickford: 5

Appeared to hurt his left hand when taking a big whack in the warm-up, but still played. Fired a lot of long balls and was lucky not to be lobbed by David Strelec’s 45-yard strike.

Kyle Walker: 4

England’s second-most experienced player had a shocker. He looked uncharacteristically slow, his touch was heavy and his crossing was nowhere near good enough. But it was his long throw that led to Bellingham’s magic.

John Stones: 4

Said it was time for the senior pros to step up in the build-up to the game, but there was little sign of that until Bellingham did his thing, and he is only 21. Stones fired aimless long balls, gave it away and it was his mistake that almost led to Strelec’s trying his luck from range.

Marc Guehi: 5

Booked early after Kieran Trippier’s underhit pass meant he had to take out the excellent David Strelec, meaning he is out of the quarter-final. Ivan Schranz bamboozled him for Slovakia’s opener but his flick-on to Bellingham brought the leveller.

Kieran Trippier: 4

When Jude Bellingham’s good ball found Trippier on the edge of the box early doors, on his favoured right foot, you thought, ‘Here we go’. He smashed it into Row Z.

Declan Rice: 5

An old-school reducer on Juraj Kucka was a fair tackle, even if it left the 37-year-old hobbling. His curling effort with ten minutes to go cracked against the post.

Kobbie Mainoo: 6

FIRST start at a major tournament and our only decent performer in an horrendous first half from England. Blasted a volley over but was also booked for a late tackle.

Bukayo Saka: 5

We all know what a fantastic player Saka is for Arsenal, and for England in games gone by, but he rarely threatened here. Did go the distance though, and in a number of positions.

Jude Bellingham: 7 and STAR MAN

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. He had underwhelmed again until the 96th minute, but who cares when you step up like that.

Phil Foden: 4

Thought he had levelled early in the second half but his tap-in was ruled out by VAR after he was caught being, inexplicably, offside. Just off it all night, in danger of being dropped.

Harry Kane: 6

Still way off his best – he was nowhere to be seen in the first half and missed a free header after the break – but got it right when it counted in extra time.

SUBSTITUTIONS

Cole Palmer (on for Kieran Trippier, 66): 7

FANS were on their feet applauding when Southgate finally made a change and brought him on. So lively and with a lovely delivery, must be in with a chance of starting against the Swiss.

Eberechi Eze (on for Kobbie Mainoo, 84): 6

Did enough to put off Slovak full-back Peter Pekarik from turning home at close range in extra-time. Looked like he had been hit by a train when Denis Vavro walloped into him.

Ivan Toney (on for Phil Foden, 90): 7

GRABBED the assist for Kane’s winner by flicking on after a free-kick – which he had won with his strength – had been cleared.

Conor Gallagher (on for Harry Kane, 105): 6

Southgate rolled the dice in extra-time by trying to shut the game out, taking his captain off for the Chelsea midfielder.

Ezri Konsa (on for Jude Bellingham, 105): 6

Ditto to Gallagher as Konsa got his first minutes of the tournament in place of the hero Bellingham, which felt a risky strategy.

MANAGER

Gareth Southgate: 3.

A lucky, lucky man. Tactically, his team were all long ball, lacked any movement, and did not conjure up a shot on target until Bellingham’s wonder strike – and that came from Walker chucking it in the mixer. Subs took ages in the 90 and then felt risky as he sought to see the game out in extra-time.

“Keep going, keep fighting. And what we’ve got as a group tonight I think showed out there.

“It’s an honour to be a part of it. We’re going to keep going, we’re going to keep giving it everything.”


England qualified for the last-16 after topping Group C with five points from a possible nine.

The Three Lions beat Serbia 1-0 before dropping points to Denmark and Slovenia.

Some fans threw plastic cups at Southgate following the Slovenia match, which ended goalless.

In response, the manager said: “I understand it. I’m not going to back away from it. The most important thing is we stay with the team. I understand the narrative towards me.

“That’s better for the team than it being towards them but it is creating an unusual environment to operate in. I’ve not seen any other team qualify and receive similar. I’m not going to back away from it.”


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