Soccer·EURO 2020 ROUNDUP

Austria rolls past North Macedonia for first-ever win at European Championship

Austria earned a convincing 3-1 victory over European Championship debutants North Macedonia in their opening Group C clash on Sunday as they earned their first major tournament victory in 31 years.

England off to winning start after edging Croatia

Austria's players celebrates after the UEFA EURO 2020 Group C football match between Austria and North Macedonia on Sunday. (Daniel Mihailescu/Getty Images)

Late goals from substitutes Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic gave Austria a convincing 3-1 victory over European Championship debutants North Macedonia in their opening Group C clash on Sunday as they earned their first major tournament victory in 31 years.

Gregoritsch prodded home David Alaba's cross in the 78th minute before Arnautovic struck in the 89th, as Austria earned a first win at the Euros at their seventh attempt and their first victory at a major tournament since the 1990 World Cup.

"We deserved to win today," Austria coach Franco Foda said. "The players made history today. You could feel form the first minute that they wanted to win it."

"The substitutions had an effect and brought new impulse. They were important and the team did everything to win it."

"I am very satisfied. We started well and were aggressive. Then they scored through a momentary lapse of concentration from us," Foda said.

"After the break we wanted to increase our passing speed. We were more mobile. We did it really well."

The Austrians, who started unusually with Alaba in central defense, had possession and circulated the ball well but struggled to break through until Marcel Sabitzer floated a perfectly-timed cross to the far post.

Stefan Lainer latched on to it, leaping into the air to beat keeper Stole Dimitrievski from a tight angle.

The North Macedonians, the lowest-ranked team in the tournament, drew level with their first chance of the game 10 minutes later when defender Martin Hinteregger's clearance first bounced off the back of Sabitzer and keeper Daniel Bachmann then let the ball slip for captain Goran Pandev to slot in.

That was his country's first ever goal in a major tournament and the forward, who has 38 goals in 120 appearances, also became the second-oldest player to score at the Euro, after Austria's Ivica Vastic, who was 38 back in 2008.

Pandev had another chance just past the hour after Boban Nikolov had failed to beat Bachmann as Austria continued to struggle up front and hoped this would not be another missed opportunity.

Foda was forced to switch to a formation with two strikers, bringing on forwards Arnautovic and Gregoritsch and the move paid off, and moving Alaba into a midfield role.

Gregoritsch timed his run to perfection to tap in Alaba's cross before keeper Risto Jankov got his hands on the ball.

Arnautovic then pounced on a defensive mistake to round the keeper and seal the Austrians' first tournament win in 31 years.

Sterling scores as England defeats Croatia

Raheem Sterling grew up in the shadow of Wembley Stadium as it was being rebuilt, even getting a tattoo of its famous arch on his left forearm.

Now playing for his country at the iconic venue, he used his right foot to give England the start it had been longing for at the European Championship.

The winger's goal — his first in a tournament in his 13th match through four competitions — gave England a 1-0 win over Croatia on Sunday in its opening Euro 2020 game.

"I always said to myself if I come here, growing up two minutes down the road, I've got to score," Sterling said. "It's a great feeling doing it."

England's Raheem Sterling (10) celebrates his game-winning goal with teammates during England's 1-0 victory over Croatia to kick off Group D Euro 2020 action on Sunday. (Justin Tallis/Reuters)

It ensured England overcome its opening-game stumbling block, finally making a winning start to the continental tournament in its 10th appearance.

Far more comfortable than in the loss to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semifinals, this was an England side packed with youthful debutants.

Seventeen-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham, who plays in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, became the youngest-ever player to appear at a European Championship when he came on in the 82nd minute to replace captain Harry Kane. The previous record had been held by Jetro Willems, who was 18 when he played for the Netherlands at Euro 2012.

Sterling, still only 26, is now England's most experienced tournament player and entrusted by coach Gareth Southgate despite struggling for game time at Manchester City in recent months.

"He's been a reliable performer for us," Southgate said. "I know people are saying he hasn't hit the heights but we can't have all the burden of scoring on Harry's shoulder. We need the players in the wide areas. He looked a threat the whole day."

After only scoring once in his previous 13 appearances for City and England, he found the breakthrough against Croatia in the 57th minute. It was the vision of Kalvin Phillips, one of five England starters making their tournament debut, that created the opening.

"He brings a lot of energy to the team," Sterling said. "He's always in the faces of the opposition and uses the ball well."

The Leeds midfielder shook of challenges before releasing Sterling, who slipped a shot into the net via a touch off Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The sparkling moment for Sterling came two days after he was named in the queen's birthday honors list for his campaigning against racial injustice.

But at the first England game at Wembley with fans since 2019, there was a sour start when players taking a knee were jeered by their own fans. That was despite pleas from the England team to respect the anti-racism gesture.

There was a more unified atmosphere among the pandemic-restricted crowd of about 20,000 at the end when "Football's coming home" was sung from the team's "Three Lions" anthem while being applauded by the players.

The England players, who next face Scotland on Friday in Group D at Wembley, couldn't wait to shield from the heat of around 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) on a rare sweltering day in England.

"It's not conditions we're used to and we dug in as a team," Sterling said. "It's been a long season for me. I couldn't wait to get started with England and I knew it would be a positive one."

There was a brief anxious moment in the second half after Kane collided with the post as he stretched to meet Mason Mount's cross. Notably — unlike on Saturday when Denmark midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed in a game — the UEFA television coverage quickly cut to wide pictures of Wembley with no close-ups before Kane resumed playing.

"It's not easy coming to major tournaments and starting the way we did," Kane said.

While England gained its elusive win, containing Luka Modric in particular to restrict the midfielder's involvement, Croatia's five-game unbeaten run at the start of European Championships ended.

"In attack we didn't show much quality, but we were playing against England, who are a terrific team," Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic said. "We were their equal most of the time. This is encouraging to me and it will be better in the forthcoming matches."

Next up is a meeting with the Czech Republic at Hampden Park in Glasgow.

"It is not a disaster," Croatia defender Sime Vrsaljko said. "We had some good spells but England were better. We gave our best. We won't surrender our chances now. I am certain that things will look different over the course of the next two matches."

Dumfries' late goal gives the Netherlands win over Ukraine

Denzel Dumfries picked a pretty good time to score his first international goal.

After missing an open chance in the first half, Dumfries helped set up two goals in the second and then headed in an 85th-minute winner to give the Netherlands a 3-2 win over Ukraine at the European Championship.

"I kept believing that a chance would come and then you have to be in the right place," Dumfries said. "It wasn't my best match, but it was the most beautiful."

The winning header came only minutes after Ukraine had scored two late goals to equalize.

The victory vindicated Netherlands coach Frank de Boer's decision to play a 5-3-2 formation at Euro 2020 with Dumfries and Patrick van Aanholt as wingbacks instead of the 4-3-3 attacking formation favored by many Dutch fans.

"We dominated, created chances, and that is what we want to see," De Boer said.

The Dutch were playing in their first major soccer tournament in seven years. The last time was at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when they reached the semifinals.

Stand-in Netherlands captain Georginio Wijnaldum put the 1988 European champions in the lead in the 52nd minute with a powerful shot to ignite a five-goal second half. Wout Weghorst made it 2-0 in the 59th.

A cross from the right by Dumfries set up the first and his run into the box caused havoc in the Ukraine defence for Weghorst's goal.

"Fantastic evening for him," Wijnaldum said.

But the comfortable position was turned upside down by two defensive lapses in five minutes.

Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko curled a left-footed shot over Maarten Stekelenburg in the 75th minute and Roman Yaremchuk dived in front of Weghorst to head in a free kick from the left four minutes later.

"You know he [Yarmalenko] has a famous left foot. We should have neutralized that," De Boer said.

The defensive frailty was not helped by the fact that centre backs Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt were both out injured. Van Dijk has been ruled out of the tournament with a knee injury but De Ligt is expected to be back for the team's next Group C match.

The Netherlands had dominated the first half but was denied by a series of good saves from Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan.

He first dived low to his right to stop a shot from Memphis Depay in the second minute and then blocked an effort from Dumfries three minutes later. He made his best save in the 39th minute, sticking out one hand to stop a volley by Wijnaldum that took a slight deflection on its way toward the goal.

Dumfries squandered the clearest Dutch chance a minute later when he headed a cross from Depay wide at the far post.

Ukraine, appearing in its third European Championship, has only won one match and has never progressed out of the group stage.

About 16,000 fans, all of whom had to show a negative COVID-19 test to get in, watched the Netherlands dominate the match at Johan Cruyff Arena until Ukraine's unlikely comeback.

The Netherlands will next face Austria on Thursday, while Ukraine plays North Macedonia in Bucharest. Austria beat North Macedonia 3-1 in an earlier Group C match.

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With files from The Associated Press

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