Jude Bellingham explains controversial gesture after last-gasp wonder goal saves England

Jude Bellingham explains controversial gesture after last-gasp wonder goal saves England

Jude Bellingham has dismissed any controversy over his celebration after scoring perhaps the goal of his career so far for England against Slovakia at Euro 2024.

The Real Madrid superstar popped up with a crucial last-gasp equaliser in Sunday night’s last-16 tie in Gelsenkirchen to force extra time and prevent the pre-tournament favourites from suffering a shock early exit.

Man of the match Bellingham dispatched a wonderful instinctive bicycle kick past Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka and into the back of the net after a long throw-in had been flicked on by England defender Marc Guehi to spark wild celebrations at Arena AufSchalke, before captain Harry Kane then completed the most dramatic of turnarounds with a decisive header early in extra time.

The 21-year-old initially attracted some criticism for appearing to make a rude gesture while looking towards the Slovakian bench as he celebrated the latest momentous moment in his astonishing young career.

However, Bellingham was quick to take to social media to clarify that such a gesture was not aimed at Slovakia at all but was rather an inside joke with close friends who were in attendance at the game.

He wrote on X after quote-tweeting footage of the celebration in question: “An inside joke gesture towards some close friends who were at the game. Nothing but respect for how that Slovakia team played tonight.”

Earlier in the celebration, Bellingham had also raised his arms and shouted “Who else?” before appearing to make a talking gesture with his hand in an apparent reference to the fierce criticism that below-par England have received throughout the tournament so far.

Bellingham himself had also been subject to criticism after his match-winning display in the Group C opener against Serbia was followed by much quieter outings in the dire back-to-back draws with Denmark and Slovenia.

Asked about that part of the goal celebration after the game, he told reporters: "The adrenaline gets you.

"It's a combination of a lot of things. Playing for England is an enjoyable feeling but it's also a lot of pressure. You hear people talk a lot of rubbish. It's nice when you can deliver and give them a little bit back.

"It's very difficult when you talk in press conferences and interviews to talk as openly as footballers want to because they're always judged.

"For me, football, being on the pitch, scoring goals and celebrating is my release. Maybe it was a message to a few people. I was very happy at the end, lots of adrenaline.

"It's a feeling that is like no other. In international football, in knockout football, it's even a worse feeling, because you're 30 seconds from going home.

"Having to listen to all the rubbish, feeling like you have let a nation of people down. In one kick of the ball, everything can change."

Bellingham added: "You know what I mean by the rubbish.

"Playing for England should be the most proud moment of your career but often it's quite difficult. There's a really high intense pressure. The fans expect a lot from us regardless of what happened in recent tournaments years and years ago.

"People talk a lot. You do have to take it personally a little bit. We work so hard at this game. We come in every day, we work hard to put on a performance for the fans, sometimes it doesn't go well and sometimes it feels like there's a bit of a pile on, it's not nice to hear.

"But you can always use it and for moments like that, it's nice to throw it back to some people."