England manager Gareth Southgate insists Bukayo Saka’s finishing ability has taken him to the next level after the Arsenal winger bagged his eighth international goal. Saka scored the Three Lions’ second goal against Ukraine in a Euro 2024 qualifier on Sunday as he curled the ball into the top corner of the net to help England to a 2-0 victory.
“You know that when he cuts in, that’s possible,” Southgate said as he watched a replay of Saka’s strike. “We got him away well in one v ones. A few times we crowded his space a little bit. But once he receives inside and gets turned you know there’s a chance this might happen. It’s a top level finish.
“That’s really the ruthless part he’s added to his game I think in the last 18 months or so. There were times where you weren’t certain he was going to finish and now you’ve got more confidence when he’s through on goal.”
Saka has been in outstanding form this season and has helped Arsenal storm to the top of the Premier League table after contributing 12 goals and 10 assists for his club in the top-flight. And the 21-year-old, who starred for England at last year’s World Cup in Qatar, admits he was delighted with his latest strike.
“As soon as it left my foot I sort of knew it was going to be on target," explained Saka. "And when I looked up it was in the top corner, so it was one of my better goals. When Hendo (Jordan Henderson) has given it to me, I’ve turned and I sort of knew straight away I was going to shoot. And as soon as I got in the right position I shot and it was a nice goal.”
Saka’s incredible strike came five minutes before the interval and three minutes after Harry Kane had given England the lead with his 55th goal for the Three Lions. And the result left Southgate’s team three points clear at the top of the Group C table.
England reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia under Southgate in 2018, before progressing to the Euro 2020 final three years later. And the ex-defender believes his team are getting closer to landing a trophy, despite exiting last year’s World Cup at the quarter-finals stage.
“I think so - we’ve broken down a lot of barriers over a period of time,” Southgate added after being asked if last week’s victory over Italy was a turning point for tournament success. “We still had that question mark against some of the bigger teams. We’re starting to win those games but there was still lots of room for improvement [after the Italy game] and that was what we asked the Players to do today.”