REPORT: Croatia 2 England 1 (AET)

England’s dreams of winning their second World Cup were ended on Wednesday night as Croatia defeated them in extra time to reach their first ever final.

The Three Lions made a dream start to the game, taking the lead just five minutes in. Dele Alli was fouled on the edge of the box and Kieran Trippier stepped up to bend the ball into the net from just short of 25 yards out, a spectacular time to grab his first international goal.

Harry Kane, who still leads the race for the golden boot, had a golden opportunity to double his side’s lead on the after half an hour when played in by Jesse Lingard, but found himself denied twice by Danijel Subasic in the Croatia goal. Subasic was fortuitous as his second save ricocheted off the post and back onto the Monaco stopper before looping behind.

Gareth Southgate’s side would live to regret those missed chances though as their opponents rallied after the interval and put the English defence under increased pressure as the second half wore on.

The equaliser eventually came twenty minutes from time, as Ivan Perisic ghosted past Trippier at the back post to pip Kyle Walker to Sime Vrsaljko’s cross and flick the ball past Jordan Pickford.

This goal to rattle the England defence and just minutes later a mix-up between Pickford and John Stones saw the ball fall to Perisic once more – and after beating Walker with a step-over – the Inter Milan winger crashed the ball against the foot of the post.Ante Rebic found himself in pole position to tuck home the rebound, but his mishit was comfortably collected by Pickford.

Neither side could find a winner in the time that remained and the match entered extra-time, which England started the stronger. Stones was unlucky not to restore the lead as he saw his bullet header cleared off the line by the impressive Vrsaljko.

Ultimately, though, it was heartbreak for England, as they conceded in the 109th minute. With Walker having failed to clear the ball, Perisic headed the ball back into the penalty area, where an unmarked Mario Mandzukic stroked the ball past Pickford to further prolong the 52 years of hurt.

Sub-edited by Ewan Kingsbury

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