England progress after late comeback

Ross Barkley featured for England as they came from behind to beat Croatia 2-1 at Wembley and secure a place in the UEFA Nations League semi-finals.

The Three Lions had trailed after conceding early in the second half, but goals from Jesse Lingard and Harry Kane, who struck just five minutes from time, ensured they came out on top and earned a deserved victory to finish top of the group, relegating Croatia to League B in the process.

The opening half was dominated by England whose attacking trio, spearheaded by Kane with Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing the width, caused Croatia all kinds of problems with their pace and clever movement.

Two golden opportunities were passed up inside the opening 10 minutes, first by Sterling, who saw his strike from an angle well saved by Lovre Kalinic after being put through by Kane, and then the Tottenham striker himself as he fired over at the back post from a John Stones flick-on.

Barkley started as part of a three-man midfield, alongside Fabian Delph and Eric Dier, and after his fierce drive on the break was charged down on the edge of the box, the Chelsea man was booked for a trip on Luka Modric.

England continued to carve out opportunities. A ball over the top from Delph was seized upon by Sterling, and as he attempted to round Kalinic, the loose ball fell at the feet of Kane, who was denied twice in quick succession. Barkley then went close six minutes before the break when he volleyed into the side-netting after Croatia had struggled to deal with a Ben Chilwell cross.

Gareth Southgate’s side started the second half brightly, but just 12 minutes after the restart, and against the run of play, Croatia took the lead through Andrej Kramaric, who was afforded far too much room inside the penalty area and fired beyond Jordan Pickford via a deflection off Dier.

Croatia’s goal sparked England into a tactical reshuffle which meant an end to Barkley’s involvement as he was replaced by Dele Alli just after the hour. It was Lingard, introduced soon after as part of a double substitution along with Jadon Sancho, who drew England level 13 minutes from time when he poked into an open goal after Kane had touched it beyond Kalinic.

With a score draw no good to either side, it was all set up for a dramatic finish, and Croatia threatened first as Lingard cleared a thumping Domagoj Vida header off the line, but with the clock ticking down it was the home side who scored what was ultimately a deserved winner when Kane reacted quickest inside the box to get on the end of Chilwell’s free-kick and steer the ball into the bottom corner.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek was an unused sub for the hosts while Mateo Kovacic and Mario Pasalic didn’t feature for Croatia.