Bukayo Saka revels in ‘perfect 20th birthday present’, thanking fans for backing him ‘through thick and thin’ after netting against Andorra… with Ian Wright insisting Arsenal star is banishing Euros demons
- Bukayo Saka saw a crucial penalty saved in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley
- The 20-year-old received hateful messages after the disappointment in July
- But the winger helped remove that hoodoo on the same pitch against Andorra
- He scored with five minutes left to seal a 4-0 victory against the visiting side
Bukayo Saka described his goal against Andorra as a ‘perfect birthday present’ and thanked fans for backing him ‘through thick and thin’ after a difficult summer.
The Arsenal star received hateful racist messages after he, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford did not score from the spot in a heartbreaking penalty shoot-out defeat against Italy in the Euro 2020 final.
But Saka has received plenty of support from team-mates and fans of other Premier League teams since, and on his first return to the Wembley pitch, eight weeks to the day after that fateful final, scored in the 85th minute at the same end.
Bukayo Saka (right) reveled in a ‘perfect birthday present’ after scoring vs Andorra at Wembley
The Arsenal youngster scored a header to round off a 4-0 win at Wembley on Saturday evening
Speaking to ITV after the game, hesaid: ‘Yeah, it was the perfect 20th birthday present for me, and I can celebrate my birthday. I’m really happy with the reception everyone gave me, it meant a lot for me and I’m happy we got the win.
‘It made a difference for me, I can hear so many fans cheering my name and it makes me believe everyone supports me through thick and thin which is nice.
‘This is what I dreamed about, scoring a goal in front of my family at Wembley, I’m really happy.’
Gunners star Saka, who turned 20 on the day of the match, was congratulated by team-mates
In a tweet after the match, he added: ‘Thanks everyone for your messages today and to everyone in the stadium for the special atmosphere. I cannot ask for a better 20th birthday!’
Saka’s header, after a clever short corner from Trent Alexander-Arnold, rounded off a comfortable Group I win for the Three Lions, who lie top of the group after five wins from five; Jesse Lingard with two, and Harry Kane were the other scorers on the day.
Pundits Ian Wright and Roy Keane insisted Saka could bounce back from the abuse and continue to have a successful career at international level, while manager Gareth Southgate described the Gunners winger’s popularity with his team-mates.
And pundit Ian Wright (above) said his goal could help him banish the demons from Euro 2020
Saka was racially abused after failing to score in a spot-kick Euro 2020 final defeat against Italy
Wright said: ‘It happens, that’s what happens in football. But he’s young enough and good enough to get back to this stage.’
Keane added: ‘He reacted well, football is about how you react to disappointments. What he had to deal with wasn’t right, off the pitch, it’s about how you react to it. He’s moved on and he’s going to have a great career.’
And Southgate concluded: ‘He got a fabulous reception and you can see how popular he is with the rest of the team. I hope his goal gave him closure, if it was needed.’