By Alasdair Mackenzie
ROME (Reuters) -England thumped Ukraine 4-0 on Saturday as Harry Kane's double helped them reach their first European Championship semi-final in 25 years in emphatic style and set up a showdown with Denmark at Wembley.
Gareth Southgate’s impressive side hit four goals in the knockout stage of a major tournament for only the second time, the first being in their 1966 World Cup final win against Germany, and kept a record seventh consecutive clean sheet.
"There was a lot of pressure on us as we were favourites to win this game. To perform like we did tonight, a clean sheet, four goals, it was the perfect night," Kane said.
The England captain raced onto a clever Raheem Sterling through ball to fire in the opener from close range after four minutes at the Stadio Olimpico, England's earliest goal in a Euros match since 2004.
Harry Maguire headed home a second less than a minute into the second half and Kane soon nodded in his side’s third as Ukraine's resistance crumbled.
Substitute Jordan Henderson completed the rout with his first international goal to ensure England's comfortable passage into the last four, the stage they fell at against Croatia in the 2018 World Cup.
"It’s a great feeling - back-to-back semi-finals at a major tournament is a great achievement. I don’t want to be a party pooper but we don’t stop here. We’ve got another big game coming up and we want to go further this time," Maguire said.
Gareth Southgate’s side will face Denmark in London on Wednesday for a place in the final after the Danes defeated the Czech Republic 2-1 in Baku.
COVID-19 travel restrictions made it difficult for England fans to get to the game, but thousands of Three Lions supporters reached the Italian capital and helped produce a lively atmosphere on a hot night in the eternal city.
Some of those in attendance had barely settled into their seats by the time England took the lead with a well-worked move.
Sterling cut in off the left wing and slid a through ball into a pocket of space behind the defence for Kane to race through and guide into the net with a neat finish.
Ukraine mustered their first effort when Kyle Walker gave the ball away and Roman Yaremchuk raced through to draw a save by Jordan Pickford, while England's Declan Rice and Jadon Sancho had shots beaten away by Georgiy Bushchan before halftime.
But England flexed their muscles after the break and ended the game as a contest within five minutes of the restart, helped by two fine assists from Luke Shaw.
The left-back whipped a free-kick onto Maguire’s head for a close-range finish in the first minute of the second half before steering a perfect delivery towards Kane for a simple close-range header four minutes later.
The goal sent Kane level with Alan Shearer as England’s second-top scorer at major tournaments with nine, behind Gary Lineker on 10, and he was denied a spectacular hat-trick when his ferocious volley was palmed away by the diving Bushchan.
It was a statement performance from the striker, who came in for some criticism earlier in the tournament but scored in the 2-0 last-16 win over Germany before producing a man of the match performance to go with his double in Rome.
England made it four from the resulting corner when Ukraine again failed to deal with a set-piece delivery as Henderson nodded in from six yards to score his first goal for his country on his 62nd cap.
"We had good parts of the game, but set pieces did not work very well for us today," said Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko. "I am really happy with how the team performed. I want to thank the players for their attitude today."
(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Additional reporting by Peter Hall; Editing by Ken Ferris)