England U21s reach Euro finals

Published: Tuesday 14th October 2014 by The News Editor

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England Under-21s have qualified for next summer’s European Championship after a 2-1 victory over Croatia in the second leg of their play-off on Tuesday night.

Gareth Southgate’s men headed into the match in Vinkovci with a 2-1 lead from the first leg and Liam Moore grabbed a vital away goal inside the first 10 minutes.

Marko Livaja equalised before the break but Will Hughes fired England back ahead to make it 4-2 on aggregate and secure their ticket to the Czech Republic.

Southgate made just one change to the team which won on Friday night, with Tottenham’s Eric Dier coming in to replace Michael Keane at right-back.

The highly rated Alen Halilovic, who joined Barcelona from Dinamo Zagreb in the summer, started for Croatia after playing 31 minutes for the senior side in their 6-0 win over Azerbaijan less than 24 hours earlier.

Just two minutes were on the clock when Jack Butland was called upon to make an impressive save and keep England ahead in the tie.

Marko Pjaca got away down the right and his cross was helped on by Livaja to Mario Pasalic, whose sidefoot finish from just six yards was stopped by the Stoke goalkeeper with his legs.

In the ninth minute, England had the away goal they craved from the unlikely source of Moore. Tom Carroll whipped in a corner and the Leicester centre-half was left completely unmarked to make a run to the edge of the six-yard box and place a volley into the top corner for his first international goal.

The game developed into a midfield battle with the hosts attempting to find some joy down the flanks and England trying to use the pace of Saido Berahino, who had a volley blocked away by Niko Datkovic, as they burst forward.

Mario Pasalic saw a tame effort saved by Butland before Croatia made an early change in the 33rd minute, with Ante Rebic replaced by Drazen Bagaric.

Five minutes later it was 1-1. A long ball over the top was chested down by Livaja, having won the aerial battle with Moore on the edge of the box, and the Rubin Kazan forward finished low past Butland.

England made a bright start to the second half but could not break down their opponents as they searched for the second away goal that would put the tie to bed.

The second goal nearly came just before the hour as England continued to dominate, but the lively Berahino hit the post after finding space inside the box.

The Young Lions got the goal their pressure merited after 73 minutes. Hughes chipped the ball to Harry Kane, who was muscled off the ball by Nino Galovic, but the Derby midfielder was on hand to gather and fire through the legs of Datkovic and into the bottom corner.

The Croatians now needed three goals, but England kept them at bay with little fuss. A Petar Misic shot from distance proved their best late effort.

Published: Tuesday 14th October 2014 by The News Editor

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