'He writes his own script': Southgate praises Bellingham after tense win over Serbia

It might have been quite nervy at times but England's tournament did at least begin with a win. Olivia Guthrie reports

Gareth Southgate said Jude Bellingham "writes his own script" after the star midfielder's header against Serbia secured England's first victory of the Euros campaign.

The 20-year-old's well-placed header gave England their opening – and only – goal within the first 13 minutes of the match on Sunday.

Fans in pubs, bars and fan parks in England and Germany hailed the performance of the Stourbridge-born Real Madrid player who was made man-of-the-match.

But what could have been a statement victory instead turned into a slog against physical Serbia, who pushed England hard but could not find a leveller as Sunday’s clash ended 1-0 in Gelsenkirchen.

“Look, this team is still coming together,” manager Southgate said. “Everybody is expecting us to waltz through but there is a lot of hard work ahead.

“We’re short of certain things, we’re finding best possible solutions.

“We’ve had a very complicated run-in to all of this, but the spirit of the group was there for everybody to see tonight and we’ll definitely grow from that.”

England fans celebrating after the Three Lions secured their first victory of the Euros campaign Credit: PA

Bellingham epitomised the spirit and skill England will need to go deep in the tournament, with Southgate full of praise for the matchwinner.

“He writes his own script,” the England manager said. “The timing of his runs. It was a super bit of play in the build-up of his play. I think all of our forward players looked really good.

“I am confident we will score goals. Playing against a back five, it is not easy to create chances and we did.

“I liked the fact we had to suffer without the ball because that is an area we have worked on a lot this week. We were obviously much better than last week at doing that.”

England's win at Germany's Veltins Arena - which puts them top of their group - was marred by fan violence before kick-off.

Riot police in Germany intervened to stop brawling soccer fans.

Violence broke out between England and Serbia fans in Gelsenkirchen, as ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports

Social media footage showed men throwing chairs at each other outside a restaurant festooned with Serbian flags in the western city of Gelsenkirchen. One group quickly left as riot officers arrived and wrestled at least one man to the ground.

Gelsenkirchen police said in a statement that officers intervened to stop a confrontation between Serbian and English fans.

“Riot police were deployed and separated the two fan camps. They took seven Serbian supporters into custody and filed a criminal complaint for grievous bodily harm,” the statement said.

There was no immediate information about injuries.

Following England's win, one fan who was celebrating at Wembley's BoxPark, labelled Bellingham a “generational talent”.

Celebrating with his friends, Daniel Dunne, 32, from Colchester said: “He is a generational talent.

“He got the goal. He has to start, it doesn’t matter where we play him.”

Bellingham was the standout performer on a night when Southgate went for converted right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold as part of his midfield three along with Declan Rice.

“I was really pleased,” he said. “Of course, Jude has such a prominent role, but he goes forward a lot and Trent had to cover a lot of spaces. That is not a role he’s done very often at all.

“I thought he showed great discipline. He showed some moments of that fabulous passing range that he has, the shot on goal as well.

“We’re obviously learning with him in this role, but I thought he showed some of the attributes that he can bring.

“Whatever we do in there, we’re going to be playing a young player or an inexperienced player, so it was great to see him come through that test.”

While England prepare to face Euro 2020 semi-final opponents Denmark in Frankfurt on Thursday, defeated Serbia will look to bounce back against Slovenia.

Head coach Dragan Stojkovic said: “It was a very good match, high quality from both teams.

“England are a very good, strong team, but we played a very brave game, the style of football we were aiming to play.

“With the changes, we managed to get where we wanted – with control of the ball and to make England defend.

“I’m proud of what we did, we didn’t deserve to lose but we’re going to keep going on.”

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