In-form Berahino keeps his focus

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Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Saido Berahino insists securing England’s passage to the UEFA Under-21 Championship is the only thing on his mind despite the increasing plaudits coming his way.

The in-form West Brom striker was on target again for England Under-21s, converting a late penalty to secure a 2-1 victory over Croatia in the first leg of their Euro 2015 play-off at Molineux.

It was the 21-year-old’s ninth goal at this level in nine appearances – all of which have come during the qualifying campaign – and maintained a rich spell of form after five in his last three Albion games.

His recent performances have led to calls for full international recognition but Berahino is ignoring the acclaim to focus solely on Tuesday’s second leg in Vinkovci, where a place in the finals will be at stake.

Berahino said: “I am just feeling good every game. I am growing. I feel confident but I am just trying to take each game as it comes, and trying to improve every game.

“It’s still only like a draw really because they’ve got the away goal. We have got to go there and make sure we finish the job off, make sure we qualify.

“That is all we are looking forward to, making sure we qualify.”

Berahino was a constant threat to the Croatia defence and formed part of dangerous attacking trio along with fellow goalscorer Harry Kane and Norwich winger Nathan Redmond.

Yet while England arguably deserved their victory for creating the better chances throughout, they needed to show character after falling behind early to a technically sound Croatia side.

England were caught napping at a corner in the 13th minute and Marko Livaja headed the visitors ahead.

The impressive Luke Shaw had a fierce shot tipped onto the post by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who also saved well from Redmond, but it was not until just before the hour that England levelled.

Berahino and Kane showed good understanding as the Tottenham forward guided in a deft header from his strike partner’s cross.

The winner came five minutes from time after Berahino was felled by Livakovic as he latched onto a Redmond throughball. He blasted the resulting spot-kick hard into the bottom corner.

Berahino said: “I thought, ‘Just put it in the back of the net’.

“Luckily for me I’ve been taking penalties for my club, so it is not a situation I have never done before. I was confident enough that if I got clean contact on it I would beat the keeper.

“It was great I managed to put it in the back of the net for the winning goal.”

England, who won nine out of 10 of their group games, have enjoyed a highly impressive qualifying campaign to date and they are now just one good performance away from booking a summer trip to the Czech Republic.

“We showed great character,” Berahino said. “We bounced back from giving them a cheap goal. It just shows how strong this group is.

“We went down and we managed to come back to win the game. Now we go to their place full of confidence and hopefully we will finish the job there.

“We know if we stay doing our things – the right things – we will be able to get over the final hurdle.”

Published: Saturday 11th October 2014 by The News Editor

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