Andorra 0-1 MU21s
Emile Smith Rowe’s second-half strike ensured England got back to winning ways in their UEFA U21 EURO qualifying campaign with a 1-0 victory in Andorra - despite being reduced to 10 men.
The Young Lions went into the game off the back of a 2-2 draw in Slovenia on Thursday, leaving them five points behind Group G leaders the Czech Republic, who had played an extra match.
Despite the best efforts of Cole Palmer, the visitors were frustrated by Andorra in the first half and then just before the hour, things became harder for MU21s when Rhian Brewster was sent off.
But England overcame that setback to score what proved to be the match-winner on 67 minutes as Arsenal’s Smith Rowe finished finished off a breath-taking counter attack by substitute Curtis Jones.
The result means England remain in third in Group G but they have closed the gap to the Czech Republic to two points ahead of their meeting with the leaders next month.
Andorra had shocked the Young Lions when the two sides met in the same fixture in their last qualifying campaign, holding England to a 3-3 draw a little over a year ago.
Fresh from his goal on Thursday night, Palmer forced the first save of the match at Estadi Nacional inside the opening five minutes.
The Young Lions continued to dominate possession in the early stages, with Tommy Doyle also testing Andorra goalkeeper Rodriguez Gimenez with a low shot from outside the box that he saved down to his right.
For all of England’s possession and territory, the visitors struggled to find a way through.
Taylor Harwood-Bellis became the latest player to be denied by Rodriguez, with the Anderlecht defender unable to prod the ball in from Palmer’s corner to the back post.
England opened up Andorra again just before the half hour mark when Tino Livramento - making his first start for MU21s - found Palmer who was able to weave past a couple of players.
Palmer found Conor Gallagher in the box and while the on-loan Crystal Palace midfielder was unable to get in a shooting position, Palmer laid the ball back to James Garner, whose low shot was pushed wide.
Manchester City’s Palmer linked up again with Livramento on 37 minutes, with the Southampton right-back forcing Rodriguez into action with a shot at his near post.
Palmer, who was arguably England’s best player in the first half, then cut inside from the right on 41 minutes and slipped the ball into Gallagher, who fired his shot over the despairing dive of Rodriguez.
But the Young Lions were unable to convert their endeavour into a first-half goal as they went into the break level with their hosts, and it was a similar story at the start of the second half.
Palmer continued to threaten, collecting a cross from Luke Thomas and turning brilliantly before firing a pass across goal that Brewster was unable to capitalise on.
England went close again as a lovely in-swinging pass from Garner found Brewster in prime position but the Sheffield United attack was unable to get enough on it as the ball drifted narrowly wide of the post.
The Young Lions went close again on 53 minutes when Doyle’s corner found skipper Marc Guehi in the box but he was unable to direct his header on target much to his frustration.
And England’s job was made even harder two minutes later, when they were reduced to ten men after Brewster was sent off for following an accidental collision with Eric Vales.
With the pressure now on the visitors, Carsley brought on Jones and Angel Gomes as Andorra looked to capitalise on their man advantage from their first corner on 66 minutes.
Andorra v MU21s
Watch Andorra v England men's under-21s in full
But England turned defence into attack in sensational fashion, with Jones breaking at pace before putting through Smith Rowe, who slotted the ball calmly past Rodriguez.
Andorra looked for a response in the final quarter and tested Etienne Green for the first time on his debut with two minutes of normal time remaining, but the Young Lions held out to clinch a vital three points.
England: 13 Etienne Green (St Etienne); 21 Tino Livramento (Southampton), 15 Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Anderlecht, loan from Manchester City), 4 Marc Guehi (Crystal Palace) (c), 3 Luke Thomas (Leicester City); 8 Conor Gallagher (Crystal Palace, loan from Chelsea), 14 Tommy Doyle (Hamburg, loan from Manchester City), James Garner (Nottingham Forest, loan from Manchester United); 20 Cole Palmer (Manchester City), 7 Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United), 10 Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)
Substitutes: 17 Curtis Jones (Liverpool) for Garner 56, 23 Angel Gomes (Lille) for Palmer 65, 9 Folarin Balogun (Arsenal) for Smith Rowe 90
Substitutes not used: 1 Josef Bursik (Stoke City), 2 Max Aarons (Norwich City), 5 Charlie Cresswell (Leeds United), 6 Oliver Skipp (Tottenham Hotspur), 12 Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa), 19 Tyreece John-Jules (Blackpool, loan from Arsenal)
Head coach: Lee Carsley
Goals: Smith Rowe 67