England secured a Wembley victory in dull game against the Czech Republic on Tuesday night as a Raheem Sterling goal in the first half guaranteed an unbeaten progression from Group D.
Gareth Southgate’s men flattered to deceive for most of the game, however. The Czech Republic could have topped the group with a draw or win but had to be settled with a best placed third spot.
England made four changes from the draw with Scotland. Harry Maguire made his first appearance in the Euros returning from injury. Jack Grealish, Bakayo Sako and Kyle Walker also made their first starts.
Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell were missing as they were self isolating while Phil Foden was out of the squad completely. The Czechs were unchanged from the draw with Croatia.
It was almost a perfect start for the English early on. Luke Shaw intercepted the ball and hoisted one over the Czech defence and into the path of the onrushing Raheem Sterling. He saw the advancing Tomas Vaclik and chipped the ball over him. It looked to be going in only to hit the outside the post.
The Czechs begun to gradually get more into the game. The midfield and attack pressed their opponents high up the pitch. Vladimir Coufal found room on the left to deliver in a cross. Only Patrick Schick was in the area which allowed Kyle Walker to clear it.
Sterling would not be denied a second time though. Bakayo Sako led an attack down the right which was eventually switched across the pitch. England recycled possession as Harry Kane fed Jack Grealish. His precise cross to the back post was headed home with gusto by the Manchester City attacker.
Curiously then England sat back on their lead as the Czech midfielders doubled up on any movements out from the back. Lukas Masopust crossed towards Tomas Soucek who was just unable to reach it properly. Moments later, Tomas Holes took a shot from distance that had Jordon Pickford scrambling to tip it away.
From the resulting corner, both Harry Maguire and John Stones combined to block a goal-bound effort from Soucek.
Sako was the man who was providing the best outlet for England. An excellent charge down the right saw him cross towards Sterling on support. It was deflected out for a corner though.
Another burst from the Arsenal man saw him play it inside to Grealish before being passed out to Shaw. His attempted cross by deflected out. Kane had his first shot on target as he was found with an excellent through ball from Maguire.
The pace dropped significantly in the second half. England sat back which allowed the Czechs more time on the ball. Coufal attempted to play in Petr Sevcik but it went out harmlessly for a goal kick. Phillips held back Darida as he threatened to skip away from him.
Pickford was also called into action to punch away a cross with Schick lurking at the back-post. At the other end, Maguire claimed for a penalty after he was held back on a freekick.
A disallowed Jordan Henderson goal was the nearest either side came to adding to the scoring. Despite plenty of subs, the pace never really picked up.
England top the group undefeated and without conceding a goal.
Czech Republic: Tomás Vaclík; Tomas Kalas, Vladimir Coufal, Ondrej Celustka, Jan Boril; Jakub Jankto (Petr Sevcik 46), Thomas Holes (Matej Vydra 83), Vladimir Darida (c) (Alex Kral 63), Lukas Masopust (Adam Hlozek 63), Tomas Soucek; Patrik Schick (Tomas Pekhart 75).
Subs not used: Pavel Kaderabek, Jakub Brabec, Antonin Barak, Tomás Koubek, Michael Krmencik, Ales Mandous, Ales Mateju.
Booked: Jan Boril (60).
England: Jordan Pickford; Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, John Stones (Tyrone Mings 78), Kyle Walker; Kalvin Philips, Jack Grealish (Jude Bellingham 67), Declan Rice (Jordan Henderson 46), Bukayo Saka (Jadon Sancho 83), Raheem Sterling (Marcus Rashford 67); Harry Kane (c).
Subs not used: Sam Johnstone, Reece James, Conor Coady, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Aaron Ramsdale, Kieran Trippier, Ben White.
Referee: Artur Manuel Soares Dias
extratime.com Player of the Match: Bakayo Sako