England winger Raheem Sterling has hit back at suggestions he dived to win the penalty which led his side to the final of Euro 2020.
Just minutes before the extra-time interval, Sterling went down under a challenge from Denmark left back Joakim Maehle and won his side a penalty. Harry Kane's effort was initially saved by the outstanding Kasper Schmeichel, only for the Tottenham man to fire home the rebound.
Replays did not appear to show much contact between Sterling and Maehle, and fans were divided over whether giving the penalty was the correct decision, but Sterling himself was confident he had been unfairly tripped.
“I went into the box and he (Maehle) stuck his leg out and touched my leg, so it was a clear penalty," Sterling told ITV after the game.
That confidence was not shared by Denmark manager Kasper Hjulmand, who was disappointed to see a European semi-final decided by both a controversial penalty decision and a refusal to acknowledge a second ball on the pitch at the time.
"It was a penalty which should not have been a penalty," he said (via Sky Sports News). It is something which annoys me right now. We are very disappointed. You cannot pass by the ball on the pitch which has so much influence on the game.
"I know it sounds weird right now but I cannot help having these feelings. One thing is to lose a game, it happens, but losing this way is disappointing because these guys have fought a lot.
"It feels bitter but we have to digest this before we can discuss these feelings. It's a bitter way to leave the tournament. The way we lost makes it harder to understand why we lost. I have to be careful with what I say. We have an amazing group and we definitely can do something great again."
Despite the controversy, it was another superb performance from Sterling, who continues to fight his case to win the award for the tournament's best player.
“It was a top performance," the Manchester City winger added. "We really had to dig in deep and it was the first time we have conceded this tournament. But we did that and won the game.
“We knew we had to stay patient. We knew with the legs and aggressiveness and power we could get it done. And we got the penalty in the end. It’s another step in the right direction."