Jude Bellingham’s brilliant header saw England start their quest for European Championship glory with a hard-fought victory against Serbia.

Three years on from their heartbreaking Wembley final defeat to Italy, the road to Berlin began with a tricky Group C opener in Gelsenkirchen.

But Gareth Southgate’s side passed their first Euro 2024 assignment as England held firm on a night when Bellingham’s thunderous early header proved enough to beat Serbia 1-0.

The result puts them top of Group C after Denmark were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovenia ahead of the Euro 2020 semi-finalists going toe-to-toe again in Frankfurt on Thursday.

England flew out the blocks at the Veltins Arena and looked ready to put in a statement performance after Bellingham powerfully headed home Bukayo Saka’s deflected cross in the 13th minute.

But unlike fellow Euro 2024 contenders Germany and Spain they were unable to put their opponents away as Serbia’s physicality and nous saw them wrest control after the break.

England managed to keep the Balkan outfit at bay and Harry Kane saw a late header saved onto the bar, but improvements are needed moving forwards.

Still, it was a far better outcome than their World Cup quarter-final defeat to Portugal in Gelsenkirchen 20 years ago and means Southgate has now won all four tournament openers.

Serbia v England – UEFA Euro 2024 – Group C – Arena AufSchalke
Jude Bellingham celebrates the winning goal (Martin Rickett/PA)

Much of the build-up to Sunday’s encounter surrounded what would happen around the match after German police categorised it as “high risk”.

These Euros are the first time England supporters have travelled en masse since 2016 and videos emerged of a few skirmishes in the city centre.

But the seven arrests confirmed before kick-off were all Serbian, whose fans whistled ‘God Save the King’ and saw their national anthem booed in retaliation.