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'Ruthless' Saka inspires England

Updated: 2023-03-28 09:50
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England's Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley Stadium, London, Britain on March 26, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Gareth Southgate hailed "ruthless" Bukayo Saka as the forward's breathtaking goal inspired a 2-0 win against Ukraine to maintain England's perfect start to its Euro 2024 qualifying campaign in London on Sunday.

Southgate's team followed an impressive victory against Italy in its Group C opener with another composed display highlighted by Saka's brilliance and the latest example of Harry Kane's predatory instincts.

Saka has been one of the standout performers in Arsenal's climb to the top of the Premier League and the forward was at his very best once again at Wembley.

It was Saka's pinpoint cross that allowed Kane to give England the lead in the first half as the Three Lions captain extended his record tally for his country.

Kane wrote himself into the record books against Italy, scoring his 54th international goal to surpass Wayne Rooney as England's all-time leading scorer.

Surrounded by his wife and children, the Tottenham striker was presented with a golden boot before kickoff, but quickly got back down to business with goal No 55.

Kane has been more instrumental than most in England's progress to major tournaments in his career, scoring 34 times in just 29 qualifying group matches.

Aged 29, Kane is at his peak, while the 21-year-old Saka is only just starting to explore the vast depths of his potential, as he showed with his superb long-range goal.

"Once he receives inside and turns you know there's a chance that might happen. It's a top-level finish," Southgate said.

"That's really the ruthless part he's added to his game in the last 18 months.

"There were times when you weren't certain he was going to finish, and now you've got real confidence when he's through on goal.

"Everyone can see technical quality. It is the mentality that is the outstanding part."

England's 2-1 victory over European champion Italy on Thursday — its first success on Italian soil since 1961 — was a significant statement of intent in its bid to finally win a first major trophy since 1966.

Dismissing Ukraine in businesslike fashion ensured the positive mood will continue while England waits to resume its qualifying campaign against Malta and North Macedonia in June.


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