Published 13 June 2022 5 min read
Match report: England MU21s 1-2 Slovenia
Young Lions end U21 EURO qualifying campaign with a home defeat in Huddersfield
A late strike from Cameron Archer was unable to rescue England men's under-21s as Slovenia denied the Young Lions an unbeaten UEFA U21 EURO qualification campaign with a 2-1 win.
England had already secured qualification with eight wins and a draw to top Group G but they found themselves repeatedly frustrated by Slovenia at Huddersfield Town FC.
The visitors stunned the crowd by taking the lead inside the first minute, through a Djed Spence own goal before doubling their lead with a superb Mark Zabukovnik header.
But Archer came off the bench to give the hosts hope of a late fightback only for Slovenia to withstand England’s late rally as Milenko Ačimovič’s side celebrated a perfect away display.
The Young Lions went into the game already assured of their place at next summer’s U21 Euro Finals in Romania and Georgia, having recorded three wins from three games this month.
But the only blot on their unbeaten record came in their last meeting with Slovenia on the road in October when Lee Carlsey’s side surrendered a two-goal lead in a 2-2 draw in Celje.
And England were quickly reminded of Slovenia’s threat inside the opening minute in Huddersfield, falling behind to a shock own goal from Spence.
The goal came in unusual circumstances as Vešner Tičić’s free-kick was nodded by Spence into his own net, leaving Josef Bursik helpless with 54 seconds on the clock.
After an unfortunate start to the evening, Spence responded by linking up with Morgan Gibbs-White down the right before the latter clipped a cross-turned shot just wide of the post.
Slovenia looked comfortable in possession as they kept it tight at the back but England threatened again through Curtis Jones on 12 minutes, only for the Liverpool man to slip in the box after swapping passes with Folarin Balogun.
The visitors were far from sitting on their early lead, though, and they came close to doubling their lead on 22 minutes as Nino Zugelj curled an effort just wide of the target.
Having struggled to find their rhythm in the opening stages against a well-disciplined Slovenia outfit, England began to have more joy as the half hour mark approached.
First, Gibbs-White and Spence combined to set up Jacob Ramsey, who was only able to drag his shot wide, before the latter was denied again in a one-on-one with Slovenia goalkeeper Martin Turk.
13 Jun 2022 90:00
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That proved to be England’s best opportunity of the half as Slovenia saw out the rest of the first period without another real scare to take a 1-0 advantage into the interval.
Carsley kept faith with his starting line-up for the restart and it was not long before the Young Lions created another chance, with Emile Smith Rowe firing wide from Balogun’s lay off.
But Slovenia continued to repel everything England were throwing at them, resulting in the hosts getting frustrated as Gibbs-White went into the referee’s book for a late challenge.
The changes arrived just after the hour as Carsley rolled the dice with a triple substitution, bringing on Max Aarons, Harvey Elliott and Cameron Archer to find an equaliser.
Yet it was Slovenia who got the all-important next goal, with Zabukovnik heading brilliantly past Bursik for his first goal at MU21 level to leave England with a mountain to climb.
The arrival of Keane Lewis-Potter almost produced an instant response for England but Cresswell saw his header cleared off the line as Slovenia celebrated every block and tackle.
England finally managed to break through the visitors’ defence with the clock in the red, as Lewis-Potter threaded the ball through to Archer who beat the goalkeeper at the near post.
But it was too little, too late for Carsley’s men, who were unable to repeat Slovenia’s two-goal comeback in their previous meeting as their qualification campaign ended in defeat.
England (4-3-3): 1 Josef Bursik (Stoke City); 12 Djed Spence (Nottingham Forest, loan from Middlesbrough); 15 Charlie Cresswell (Leeds United); 5 Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Manchester City), 16 Ben Johnson (West Ham United); 8 Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa), 6 James Garner (Nottingham Forest, on loan from Manchester United), 17 Curtis Jones (Liverpool); 7 Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 9 Folarin Balogun (Arsenal), 10 Emile Smith Rowe (Arsenal)
Substitutes: 2 Max Aarons (Norwich City) for Spence 61’, 21 Harvey Elliott (Liverpool) for Ramsey, 14 Cameron Archer (Preston North End, loan from Aston Villa) for Balogun, 23 Keane Lewis-Potter (Hull City) for Garner 74’, 20 Angel Gomes (Lille) for Smith Rowe 78’
Substitutes not used: 13 Carl Rushworth (Brighton & Hove Albion), 3 Luke Thomas (Leicester City), 18 Tommy Doyle (Manchester City), 19 James McAtee (Manchester City)
Goals: Archer 90+1’
Cautions: Cresswell 8’, Morgan Gibbs-White 57’, Garner 68’, Aarons 70’, Gomez 90+1
Manager: Lee Carsley
Slovenia (4-3-3): 1 Martin Turk; 13 Mitja Ilenčič, 3 Dušan Stojinović, 6 David Zec, 15 Mark Spanring; 4 Benjamin Markus, 8 Luka Vešner Tičić, 19 Mark Zabukovnik; 11 Nino Žugelj, 18 David Flakus Bosilj, 19 Aljoša Matko
Substitutes: 22 Amir Feratovič for Stojinović 46’, 14 Almin Kurtovič for Matko 71’, 9 Nik Prelec for Flakus Bosilj 71’, 20 Aljaž Antolin for Vešner Tičić 80’, 2 Žan Trontelj for Žugelj 83’
Substitutes not used: 12 Žan-Luk Leban, 5 Žiga Laci, 7 Tjaš Begić, 10 Svit Seslar, 22 Amir Feratovič
Goals: Spence 1’ og, Zabukovnik 64’
Cautions: Zec 86’, Markus 90+1
Manager: Milenko Ačimovič