Czech Republic 0 England 1: Raheem Sterling goal earns top billing and Wembley return

It was mission accomplished for England at Wembley last night, no more, no less.

Raheem Sterling of England scores their team's first goal past Tomas Vaclik of Czech Republic at the Euro 2020 Championship Group D match at Wembley Stadium. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

They will be back, on Tuesday, for a tougher assignment but as manager Gareth Southgate stressed after the 0-0 draw with Scotland, it has all been about getting out of the group and the Three Lions have not only done that, they have won it, guaranteeing a home last-16 tie in this sort-of home tournament for them.

There was little by way of glamour despite Raheem Sterling raising hopes in an exhilarating start and Jack Grealish being allowed to twinkle his toes from the start (if not all the way to the finish) for the first time at Euro 2020.

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Considering the talent at their disposal, England have a habit of leaving you wanting more at the moment.

Raheem Sterling celebrates his goal with team-mate Jack Grealish. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

But glitz was for the Golden Generation, the Galacitcos who won nothing. Southgate would rather be a winner.

That England have only scored two goals in their three games is a bit of a let-down, particularly in comparison to some of the thrilling football played by an Italy side who will no doubt grace the same turf rather more entertainingly at the weekend. If Southgate ever did cartwheels he would probably be doing them at no goals conceded in three matches of this competition, five since the season ended.

Bukayo Saka, a surprise selection at the start, is impressively into the tournament and has won a bit of trust as well as a man of the match award, Grealish is too in earnest. Senior players have important minutes in their legs, the only pity is that Jordan Henderson was again denied a first England goal, this time by an 87th-minute offside flag.

Even before the game kicked off, it felt like things were going to be better. The first pre-match play of Three Lions stirred the crowd and a rendition of Seven Nation Army really got them going. They belted out the national anthem along with the players.

England took their cue from that, quick out of the blocks in an energetic start but it was not one they could sustain, or perhaps wanted to.

Harry Kane and Sterling spent much of the first couple of minutes in one another’s positions and it worked well, the Manchester City winger chasing onto a pass from the impressive Luke Shaw and lifting the ball over Tomas Vaclik but onto the post.

“Football’s coming home!” roared the crowd.

Sterling was not to be denied.

In the 13th minute Saka, picked ahead of Jadon Sancho with Phil Foden left out of the squad to protect against a yellow card suspension, overhit hit his first cross when fed by Leeds United’s Kalvin Phillips but Grealish – in place of the isolating Mason Mount – kept the ball alive and stood up a centre for Sterling to head in at the far post.

The scoreboard operator did his bit to keep English spirits high, flashing news of Croatia’s opening goal against Scotland up to prompt another cheer. Future goals met with the predictable response as the Auld Enemy rivals headed out of the tournament.

At the back, Harry Maguire had picked a good day to ease himself back into his first game since May 9, threading a lovely pass to Kane. Vaclik spread himself well to save but the captain’s first shot on target in the tournament was a sign he was looking more like his old self. He forced a second save late in the first half.

Henderson also got valuable minutes, coming on at half-time with Phillips dropping behind him into Declan Rice’s holding role. Southgate probably now considers Maguire and Henderson viable options for the knockout stages. Maguire’s fellow Sheffielder Kyle Walker showed defensive cool too as Patrik Schick was largely kept away from his goal – not that that is always a guarantee.

The Czechs were coming more into the game though, and Jordan Pickford’s first save, in the 28th minute, was a good one, stretching to keep out Tomas Holes.

England remained confident, brilliant touches from Phillips and Grealish twice to pluck the ball out of the air not the prelude to goalscoring moves.

The second half was subdued and the fans recognised the need to try and lift it, with God Save Our Queen at one end of the stadium, Atomic Kitten at the other. Southgate tried too, although there were some boos when Grealish came off, with Sterling, to be replaced by Jude Bellingham and Marcus Rashford.

As against Croatia, England looked reasonably content to sit on a 1-0 lead, and were able to. We would love to see a bit more ambition from such a flair-flecked team but if Southgate ends up getting knighted for winning England the tournament, it is unlikely to come up in a conversation with the Queen.

Tonight England will find out which fearsome opponents they face at Wembley on Tuesday but a team yet to concede in this tournament will not fear them even if they might struggle to panic them.

Czech Republic: Vaclik; Coufal, Celustka, Kalas, Boril; Holes (Vydra 83), Soucek; Masopust (Hlozek 64), Darida (Kral 64), Jankto (Sevcik 46); Schick (Pekhart 76). Unused substitutes: Kaderabek, Brabec, Barak, Krmencik, Mandous, Mateju, Koubek.

England: Pickford; Walker, Maguire, Stones (Mings 78), Shaw; Rice (Henderson 46), Phillips; Saka (Sancho 83), Grealish (Bellingham 67), Sterling (Rashford 67); Kane. Unused substitutes: Ramsdale, Johnstone, Trippier, Coady, Calvert-Lewin, White, James.

Referee: Artur Manuel Soares Dias (Portugal).