A penalty kick rebound converted by Harry Kane gave England a deserved 2-1 win over Denmark in Wednesday’s Euro 2020 semi-final.
Victory helped them to set up a home showpiece against Italy on Sunday.
Kane saw his 104th minute penalty kick —— controversially not overturned by video review in spite of Raheem Sterling going down under minimal contact from Joakim Maehle – saved by Kasper Schmeichel.
But he made no mistake with his second attempt.
England have ended a 55-year wait to reach a major final.
One more win will end the same drought since their one and only trophy, the 1966 World Cup — also lifted at Wembley.
Denmark’s fairytale run since the collapse of Christen Eriksen with cardiac arrest in their opening game ended in spite of Mikey Damsgaard’s brilliant free-kick giving them a 30th minute lead.
But Simon Kjaer’s own goal levelled matters before the break and with England dominant, the winner was a matter of time in coming even if Denmark survived the initial 90 minutes.
The vast majority of the 65,000 crowd inside Wembley — the biggest attendance at a UK sports event since the coronavirus pandemic began —- could not hide their delight at seeing England continue their progress.
It was fully merited in spite of the disputed nature of the winning goal.
The influential Sterling cut in from the right and tumbled but was well on the way to the ground even before he was grazed by Maehle.
Sterling insisted he “touched my leg so it was a clear penalty kick.”
And the contact, however slight, was enough to convince the review the decision was not clearly mistaken and Kane took full advantage for his fourth goal of the tournament.
“It was a top performance — we had to dig in deep after the first goal we conceded in the tournament, and we regrouped well and showed a good team spirit to come back and win the game,” said Sterling.
“It was difficult going behind but we knew we had to stay patient — we knew with the legs we’ve got, the aggressiveness and the power we have in the team, it would be a matter of time before we broke them down.”
Denmark, playing on a wave of emotion since Eriksen’s collapse, started slowly but gradually turned matters.
Young talent Damsgaard had already curled wide before finding the net with a beautiful free-kick over the wall.
It was England’s first goal conceded in the tournament and in a total of 691 minutes —— though by then goalkeeper Jordan Pickford had narrowly broken England’s personal clean sheet record.
It was a record of World Cup winning-goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who didn’t concede for 720 minutes in May to July 1966.
Sterling was denied an equaliser by a point-blank Schmeichel save but his presence awaiting Bukayo Saka’s cross forced Kjaer into a 39th minute own goal.
It was the 11th own goal of the tournament with only nine having been recorded combined at every previous edition since 1960.
“It was an amazing journey,” said Kjaer. “I’m sorry that it’s over.”
Denmark’s tiring legs conceded possession and territory to England, who did however struggle to create.
Defender Harry Maguire’s header was superbly clawed out by Schmeichel — whose father Peter was a Denmark hero in their Euro title win of 1992 —— and extra-time loomed.
Schmeichel denied captain Kane and substitute Jack Grealish while Sterling fired over from the edge of the penalty box.
Eventually the pressure told though and England’s Wembley exploded with equal measure of joy and relief.