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Declan Rice lauds ‘another level’ Jude Bellingham and England midfield after win

England’s Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jude Bellingham played in a new-look midfield against Serbia (Adam Davy/PA)
England’s Declan Rice, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jude Bellingham played in a new-look midfield against Serbia (Adam Davy/PA)

Declan Rice believes Jude Bellingham is on “another level” and is pleased with how England’s new-look midfield is shaping up after winning their Euro 2024 opener against Serbia.

Bellingham’s early header proved enough to seal a tight 1-0 victory for Gareth Southgate’s side, who were forced back towards their own goal in the closing stages but stood firm.

England now top Group C after Denmark and Slovenia drew earlier on Sunday and face the former in Frankfurt on Thursday.

Bellingham was the man to take centre stage at the Veltins-Arena just a fortnight on from winning the Champions League final with Real Madrid.

“I don’t need to talk about how good it is. I think you see in Madrid every week, seen it again (against Serbia), the match winner,” Rice said of his fellow midfielder.

“I feel like he’s a player that when I’m holding I’ve just got to let him flourish and do his thing, let him feel like he’s got the confidence on the pitch to go out there and do whatever he wants.

“The more we play together, I feel like the connection and bond we’ve got is really, really good. With Jude, he is just another level isn’t he? That is all I can say really.”

England’s Jude Bellingham, left, celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold after scoring the opening goal during the win over Serbia
England’s Jude Bellingham, left, celebrates with Trent Alexander-Arnold after scoring during the win over Serbia (Martin Meissner/AP)

Trent Alexander-Arnold was added to the midfield mix as Southgate strives to find the best combination in the centre of the pitch.

The Liverpool right-back has been converted into a central role when playing for England and won the battle to be named alongside Rice against Serbia.

Aside from one small error that led to a chance for Aleksandr Mitrovic, Alexander-Arnold played some smart passes but was replaced by Conor Gallagher as Serbia began to press for an equaliser.

“Trent I thought played really well,” added Rice.

“(It was) his first time properly playing like a defensive midfield role. So it’s a really good trio.

England sit in a strong position in Group C following the win, which was ultimately closer than they would have liked after starting the game in dominant fashion.

A strong rearguard action, though, limited Serbia’s chances on goal as England began with a clean sheet.

“It’s massive,” Arsenal midfielder Rice said of the shut-out.

“I think we’ve built this team off clean sheets. In the last Euros, I think we had five out of seven and at the World Cup we had a lot of clean sheets.

“We have real defensive solidity, it’s just about doing it on the night…it was definitely a game of two halves.

“It was a really important victory, to be honest with you, to kick-start the tournament. I thought we started really well, showed some real great composure with the ball.

“It’s always tough against a back-five and second half they obviously came on to us a lot more and were probably a bit more of a threat.

“But in the end, I thought we were comfortable – we’ve just got to use the ball a little bit better in the second half when it starts to get tough.”