GELSENKIRCHEN: England had crawled out of the gloom of the group stage into the sunlight of the Round of 16 at UEFA Euro 2024 with expectation ever greater, if anything, of manager Gareth Southgate’s misfiring team.

It was expectation again betrayed until England conjured a storybook turnaround to beat Slovakia 2-1 after extra-time in the Arena AufSchalke.

First Jude Bellingham – 21 on Saturday – struck a sensational stoppage-time goal to earn extra-time and then, almost immediately, captain Harry Kane headed what proved the winner with his 48th goal of the season.

The Three Lions had been runners-up in the final three years ago then quarter-finalists at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. They had been joint favourites on the flight to Germany but had failed to live up to their billing, for all the club-level brilliance of their attackers.

Slovakia, ranked 45 in the world, responded with an all-round solid team performance, working hard both as a block and for each other. Nothing brilliant but it did not need to be against an incoherent England.

Slovakia, with nothing to lose, embarrassed England from the start. David Hancko burst through on the left in only the fifth minute but no-one was up in place to push home his angled cross. Then Lukas Haraslin had a shot blocked after another burst in behind Kyle Walker.

Marc Guehi, Kobbie Mainoo and Jude Bellingham also collected three yellow cards before the Slovaks went ahead in the 24th minute.

Guehi and John Stones went for the same long hopeful hit from the right and the ball bounced free so David Strelec could send in Ivan Schranz to stab home his third goal of the finals. For the fourth successive tie, Slovakia had struck first.

England won a flurry of corners at the end of the first half but without capitalising and Kane & Co were duly booed off at the interval.

Southgate refused to be rushed into panic changes even though England continued to prove their own worst enemies.

First Phil Foden proved too eager to pounce and was denied an equaliser by an offside ruling then a misunderstanding between Walker and Stones allowed Strelec a free hit at goal from 40 metres with Pickford caught upfield. Fortunately for England the ball drifted wide.

England brought on Cole Palmer and enjoyed most of the possession but even when they did finally create a chance, from an angled free kick, Kane headed wide of a gaping goal. Minutes later, Declan Rice hit keeper Martin Dubravka’s right-hand post.

England had almost run out of stoppage time when, with one minute of the six remaining, Bellingham produced a remarkable overhead bicycle kick to a flick from Guehi to send the tie into extra time.

Just before the goal Southgate had sent on Ivan Toney and that switch was vindicated in the second minute of the 30 when the Brentford striker popped a loose clearance back into the goal area for Kane to pounce from close range to earn a quarter-final against Switzerland.