Report from Euro 2024 as Jude Bellingham heads England to opening-game win which puts them top of Group C; Gareth Southgate's side were dominant in first half but suffered in second, despite Harry Kane's header being pushed onto the bar; England next in action against Denmark on Thursday

England edged to a 1-0 victory over Serbia in their Euro 2024 opener to go top of Group C.

Gareth Southgate's side impressed in the opening 45 minutes, with the brilliant Jude Bellingham heading them in front after just 13 minutes from Bukayo Saka's deflected cross.

They should have then doubled their lead when Kyle Walker burst into the box midway through that first half but sent his cross-shot wide of the far post and beyond the reach of Phil Foden and Harry Kane.

That failure to capitalise on their dominance led to a nervous end to the half and there was a momentum shift after the interval. Serbia stepped up, England lost their way.

Aleksandar Mitrovic saw a penalty appeal waved away when Kieran Trippier nudged him to the ground at the near post.

Subs Dusan Tadic and Luka Jovic then almost combined as Serbia pressed for a leveller, England dropped deeper and Southgate delayed any changes of his own.

When the England boss did eventually turn to his bench there was almost an instant impact from Jarrod Bowen. His cross was met by Harry Kane whose header was brilliantly pushed against the underside of the bar by Serbia goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic.

Serbia continued to build pressure, though, with Jordan Pickford forced to tip over Dusan Vlahovic's drive before Sergej Milinkovic-Savic lashed one wide from distance.

England were desperate for the final whistle and hanging on, but when it eventually came they could celebrate a victorious start to this Euros campaign.

The draw between Slovenia and Denmark earlier on Sunday means England are already well-placed to qualify for the knockouts - but they will need to play like they did in the first half rather than the second if they are to go deep in this tournament.

Analysis: Familiar concerns emerge for England

England fans have seen this match before. A fast start followed by the team relinquishing control and Southgate sitting on his subs has become a familiar pattern. Against Serbia - and on plenty of previous occasions - England have found a way to get over the line. But it's hardly a recipe for tournament glory.

England went from convincing to concerning in this opening game. The authority and dominance of the opening half hour turned to panic by the end, as Serbia stepped it up.

For all the talk about England's attacking assets in this squad, they were once again dropping deep and hanging on for the final whistle. It was hardly the hallmark of European champions in waiting.

But three points are on the board. A place in the knockouts is almost assured. And there is time to find a way to play with their early swagger for 90 minutes. But that approach has to come from the top. Southgate needs to set that tone.

This boy can do it all. And he's only 20 years old. Incredible. Jude Bellingham started and finished the move for England's opener, bravely and brilliantly throwing himself at Bukayo Saka's deflected cross to put his side in front.

He's earned a reputation in his first season at Real Madrid as a match winner and he was the difference maker here for England. And not just with his goal. From his defensive work, sliding into tackles or nicking the ball off Serbian players, to spraying passes around, including one delicious volleyed ball back to Kyle Walker Bellingham was at the heart of it all for England.

The respect he already has from opposition teams was clear to see too, with Serbia regularly targeting him with some rough stuff. But he's a tough kid as well as a classy one.

England's chances in Germany are strongly linked to how the Birmingham boy does. He's off to a flyer.
What they said...
England boss Gareth Southgate: "We defended very well as a unit. Our team ran out of energy and that didn't surprise me due to the lack of 90 minutes our players have had. The subs helped us. I think we can be more efficient with the way we played in the first half which will help us moving forward."

On Alexander-Arnold: "It's not a role he's done much before but he showed great discipline and moments of his fabulous passing range. We're learning with him in this role and he showed some of the attributes we want. Whoever we play in there, we'll be playing a young or inexperienced player in there. It was great to see him come through this test."

On Kane: "We had so many options and so in control it didn't feel like everyone needed to be involved in the game. In the second half where he held the ball up and won fouls to ease the pressure it was incredible. First half he was quiet but we were in complete control where Phil popped up in the spaces really well.

"He did an excellent job in the second half when we were struggling and his technical ability to hold the ball was really helpful. This team is still coming together. Everyone expects us to waltz though but there is hard work ahead. We're short of certain things and trying to find solutions. We had a very complicated run-in to this tournament but the spirit was there to see and we'll grow from that."

England captain Harry Kane to BBC: "We knew it would be a tough game. Serbia pose a threat. Very physical. I thought we dealt with it well. Overall we deserved to win. The group is just about getting through.

"Jude is an unbelievable player. He deserves all the praise, the confidence he plays with and the way he affects games. It's important for players that play in his position to get goals and assists. He finished it off nicely."