England youngsters claim narrow win

p1883Sport-2-1

Published: Friday 10th October 2014 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Saido Berahino struck a crucial late penalty as England claimed a 2-1 victory in their UEFA Under-21 Championship play-off first leg against Croatia at Molineux.

The in-form West Brom striker converted a spot-kick he won with five minutes remaining to put Gareth Southgate’s men in charge of the qualifier ahead of Tuesday’s second leg in Vinkovci.

Croatia had claimed a 13th-minute lead through Marko Livaja but England fought back and hit the post through Luke Shaw before Harry Kane equalised.

England’s victory – their first in three attempts against Croatia at under-21 level – was well deserved after they grew in confidence throughout the game but, with away goals important, a place in next summer’s finals is not yet secure.

England, looking composed in the early stages, carved out the first opportunity when Berahino played a neat one-two with Will Hughes but curled his effort well wide.

Yet while England controlled a lot of possession, Croatia also looked comfortable on the ball and capable of creating chances.

They caught the England defence napping to claim the lead from a corner as captain Niko Datkovic flicked on Filip Bradaric’s cross and the unmarked Livaja nodded in.

Livaja celebrated his potentially crucial away goal amid a crescendo of boos, which quickly turned into band-led chants for England.

The hosts attempted to rouse themselves and Kane won a free-kick on the edge of the box only to blaze it well over. Kane sensed another chance when Michael Keane whipped in a cross but Dominik Livakovic was quick off his line.

Shaw then burst down the left and exchanged passes with Hughes before unleashing a ferocious strike which rebounded off the far post after a fingertip save from Livakovic.

Winger Nathan Redmond then brought another fine save from the keeper with a fierce long-range drive and had another attempt blocked soon after.

Ante Coric, the 17-year-old playmaker, twice went close to doubling Croatia’s lead as he curled a shot narrowly wide and forced Jack Butland to palm over from distance.

England boss Southgate added fresh impetus after the break as Eric Dier and Tom Ince entered the fray.

England took the initiative and their reward came as Berahino clipped in a good cross from the left and Kane guided a deft header into the net.

England wanted to capitalise further on their superiority and Redmond troubled Livakovic with a shot from 30 yards but the keeper grabbed at the second attempt.

The momentum was with England and Croatia looked to sit back to protect what they had, but they threatened again at a set-piece as Matej Mitrovic headed wide.

The game got a bit niggly towards the end and Croatia had both Domagoj Pavicic and Mario Pasalic booked. Dier and Rebic also pushed each other during a break in play.

Tom Carroll picked out Redmond with a brilliant 50-yard crossfield pass when play restarted and the Norwich man controlled beautifully before curling a shot across goal.

It was a warning Croatia failed to heed and Berahino burst into the box five minutes from time and was taken down by the outrushing Livakovic.

Berahino blasted home the resulting spot-kick, maintaining his fine form after five goals in his last three games for West Brom, to give England the edge.

Published: Friday 10th October 2014 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search