Despite the reshuffle, a composed and organised England came out of the blocks flying at the start of both halves, with a brace from Harry Kane either side of a Harry Maguire header setting up the win before substitute Jordan Henderson also got in on the act.
Fresh from his late goal against Germany in the last 16, Kane picked up where he left off with an early strike at the Stadio Olimpico, needing just three minutes and 32 seconds to open the scoring.
Raheem Sterling picked up the ball on the left flank, darted infield and played a wonderful pass in behind for the England skipper, who beat the goalkeeper to the ball and poked it in at the near post.
Southgate’s side settled into a nice rhythm after taking the lead and looked comfortable with and without the ball, though a stray pass from Kyle Walker gifted Roman Yaremchuk a shot on goal – and provided a reminder of Ukraine’s occasional threat on the break.
But England’s control continued, with Sterling a constant menace on the left, and his pull-back around the half-hour mark saw a ferocious effort from Declan Rice pawed away by Heorhiy Bushchan.
Soon after, it was the superb Luke Shaw’s turn to pillage down the left, bursting into the box and finding new Manchester United teammate Sancho but the winger’s shot was easily saved; the linesman’s flag was raised, but the effort would have counted.
Yaremchuk continued to give the England defence some unsettling moments and an injury-prompted tactical shift to a back four from Ukraine saw them grow into the match as half-time approached, with Mykola Shaparenko flashing a long-range effort just wide before the break.
That seemed to spark fresh urgency from England after the restart and they made another rapid start to the second half, this time Shaw whipping in a superb free-kick for Harry Maguire to power into the far corner.
Minutes later, the game was put to bed as Shaw turned provider again and Kane grabbed his second goal of the night, rising high to head the left-back’s cross between the legs of a hapless Bushchan.
Despite several comebacks over the past fortnight, Ukrainian heads dropped as England exerted total dominance – save for one rash moment from Jordan Pickford – and easily saw out a fifth straight clean sheet of the tournament.
Southgate was even able to sub off his players who were at risk of suspension and one of the replacements, Henderson, came off the bench to head home his first ever goal for his nation to spark jubilant scenes of celebration and record the side’s biggest ever scoreline in a knockout match.
England’s victory means they have matched their achievements at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, where they also reached the semi-final before losing to Croatia, and they will be looking to go one step further when they take on Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday night.
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