Jordan Henderson faces real fight to win back England Euro 2020 place after Kalvin Phillips' outstanding game vs Croatia

KALVIN PHILLIPS became the first Leeds player to assist a goal at Wembley since David Batty in 1999.

A pass for Steve McMananman in a 6-0 win over Luxembourg was never going to live long in anyone’s memory.

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But the whole of Yorkshire — along with the rest of the country — raised a glass to a moment of pure class from Phillips to create Raheem Sterling’s match-winning goal.

Hopefully, this particular assist will be remembered as the moment which started England off on their journey to an exciting, successful Euro 2020.

After the 1-0 win over Croatia, ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ was trending on twitter. And the subject was certainly not Batty.

Phillips, 25, also Leeds-born, was making only his ninth international appearance but he looked like a player accustomed to a major summer tournament every couple of years.

It was not just the close control and clever nudge of the ball which finally unlocked the Croatian’s defence.

Here was an outstanding performance from Phillips. He was energetic off the ball, dynamic in possession and he worked perfectly with Mason Mount but in particular, Declan Rice.

Sterling landed the Uefa match-of-the match award but it should have gone to Phillips. And to think many fans were concerned about Phillips’ inclusion in the starting XI.

Jordan who?


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Phillips said: “It was very enjoyable. It is great to get an assist and a great feeling for the three points.

“It was really warm and it took its toll towards the end of the game. It was a great result but I know there are two more group games left and we have to be as good as that if not better.”

Delighted boss Gareth Southgate said: “Kalvin is a fabulous boy to work with, so unassuming. I thought his performance was outstanding.

“Two passes in the first-half in behind the defence were top level and his contribution for the goal summed his day up, really.

“I think we know we are asking him to play in a slightly advanced position from the one he plays at his club. But he’s got the technique to be able to do that.

“It gives us a bit more solidity in midfield and allows us to effectively play four attacking players, with Mason in midfield as well.”

Croatia’s midfield, crammed with quality, was a reason Southgate played with a back four and central three. Under normal circumstances, Jordan Henderson would have been running the midfield engine room alongside Rice.

While the Liverpool’s captain’s vast experience will be missed, Phillips — who has improved immeasurably under boss Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds — proved he can more than fill that role.

Henderson, who underwent a groin operation in February, looked incredibly rusty in his 45-minute cameo in last week’s friendly against Romania.

Realistically, he will not be match-fit until the knockout stages.

Yet he faces a real fight to get his place back if Phillips keeps delivering composed performances like this.

Phillips was the only player on either side to complete all of his passes in the first half at Wembley (18/18), while no player completed more long passes than him (3).

And in the key moment of the game, he received a decent ball from Kyle Walker and skipped past the outstretched leg of Duje Ćaleta-Car before teeing up the killer pass for Sterling.

Phillips only made his debut in the 0-0 draw with Denmark last September, the same night Jack Grealish got his first cap.

There has been much anticipation of Grealish making an impact at the Euros and this could still happen.

But the first relative newcomer to grab his chance is Phillips — and 65-year-old Argentine Bielsa could surely have not been any prouder.

Southgate added: “To be able to work with the coach that he has at Leeds and to have a season of playing in the Premier League will have given him tremendous confidence coming into this tournament.

“All the attributes were there: the range of passing, the athleticism, the desire. For us he’s just a very good footballer — high performance, low maintenance. We like that a lot.”

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