Ticketless England fans broke into Wembley Stadium in a desperate attempt to watch the national team play Italy in the Euro 2020 final, the men’s team’s first major tournament final in 55 years.

Images on social media from inside Wembley appeared to show fans storming turnstiles and barriers around the perimeter of the stadium, with stewards overwhelmed ahead of the match.

The scenes detracted from a fiercely contested game played in front of an official crowd of more than 60,000 spectators, but still short of Wembley’s 90,000 capacity. Well over 25m across the UK were expected to watch the match on television at home.

Wembley Stadium had initially suggested that fans had not been able to break into the ground, but later released a statement reading: “There was a breach of security and a small group of people got into the stadium.

“We are now working closely with stadium stewards and security to remove these people. Anyone inside the stadium without a ticket will be instantly ejected.”

Police were tested by the return of fans for England’s biggest match in decades, particularly after more than a year when football matches were denied capacity crowds. Huge crowds of fans gathered in London throughout the day, drinking and chanting hours ahead of the match, with tens of thousands travelling to the stadium.

The huge gatherings of boisterous supporters will also raise health concerns just days after scientists warned that increased mixing indoors during the tournament could be increasing the spread of the virus. Footage from across the capital showed fans ignoring official guidelines to remain socially distanced.

In the second half of a tense game, a pitch invader held up play.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and the Metropolitan Police had both urged ticketless fans not to travel to Wembley but some ignored their warnings.

“Wembley area is extremely busy. The match is sold out, there are no more tickets available,” the Met said hours before kick-off.

Away from Wembley, fans swarmed all over central London. The Met said a “large crowd” tried to push into a paid “fan zone” screening in Trafalgar Square before kick-off without tickets.

Nearby Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square were heaving with football fans, and the Met said there were instances of people “jumping off street lamps or hoardings”.

Some also set off flares, including near railway stations. The police said the “offences” would be investigated.

Laurence Taylor, deputy assistant commissioner at the Met, said on Saturday that the force was “very experienced at policing large football matches at Wembley and is fully prepared to meet the demand of the Euros final match”.