Report: Albania 0-3 England MU21s
England men’s under-21s continued their impressive run in UEFA Under-21 EURO qualifying with a sublime 3-0 win against Albania.
A brace from Folarin Balogun and a goal from Curtis Jones ensured the Young Lions kept the pressure on Czech Republic ahead of their crucial clash in June, with Lee Carsley’s side six points behind but with three games in hand.
England were frustrated in the first half in Albania and despite being on top, could not quite find a way past Simon Simoni.
The Albania defence proved to be resolute and stubborn for the duration of the opening 45 minutes, but that was not for a lack of trying from the Young Lions.
Anthony Gordon had a long-range effort stopped by Simoni after seven minutes, the keeper preventing the ball from going into the top left corner, and the Everton man could not quite find the back of the net with another excellent effort from distance after 25 minutes.
England came out with serious intent in the second half and it took them just two minutes to open the scoring.
Middlesbrough loanee Balogun neatly took his first of the evening after a perfect through ball from Noni Madueke.
The Young Lions continued to push for a second immediately after that opener from Balogun, with Jones pressing Jurgen Celhaka, taking the ball off him and calmly scoring to put England two goals ahead after just six second-half minutes.
England continued to assert their second-half dominance and pressed hard for a third goal.
It came just after the hour mark when Morgan Gibbs-White found Balogun with an excellent pass, and the striker proved just how prolific he is with a ruthless finish into the bottom right corner.
That was Balogun’s fourth goal in just three starts for England MU21s and he was in search of his hat-trick with half an hour left of the game.
He came close when the ball came towards him in the box but couldn’t quite get a touch on it.
Gordon, who scored impressively in England’s 4-1 win over Andorra on Friday, had a free-kick pushed away for a corner as Carsley’s men continued in their search of goals.
The Everton forward almost scored a stunning fourth for England late on, while Albania were unable to get past the solid defensive duo of Levi Colwill and captain Taylor Harwood-Bellis.
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In added time, the home side pressed for a consolation goal, but the defence would not budge, and goalkeeper Josef Bursik made a phenomenal save in the dying seconds to keep hold of a valuable clean sheet.
The Young Lions now travel to the Czech Republic for a battle of the top two teams in Group G in June as they look to move closer to securing qualification for the UEFA Under-21 European Championships.
England: 1 Josef Bursik (Stoke City), 4 Levi Colwill (Huddersfield Town, loan from Chelsea), 5 Taylor Harwood-Bellis (Stoke City, loan from Manchester City) ©, 9 Folarin Balogun (Middlesbrough, loan from Arsenal), 10 Morgan Gibbs-White (Sheffield United, loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), 11 Anthony Gordon (Everton), 16 Ben Johnson (West Ham United), 17 Curtis Jones (Liverpool), 18 James Garner (Nottingham Forest, loan from Manchester United), 20 Noni Madueke (PSV Eindhoven), 21 Valentino Livramento (Southampton)
Substitutes: Djed Spence (Nottingham Forest, loan from Middlesbrough) for Livramento 56, Angel Gomes (Lille) for Gibbs White 76, Keane Lewis-Potter (Hull City) for Madueke 82
Substitutes not used: 6 Thomas Doyle (Cardiff City, loan from Manchester City), 7 Harvey Elliott (Liverpool), 8 Jacob Ramsey (Aston Villa), 14 Lee Buchanan (Derby County), 15 Charlie Cresswell (Leeds United), 22 Carl Rushworth (Walsall, loan from Brighton and Hove Albion)
Head coach: Lee Carsley
Goals: Folarin Balogun 47, 61, Curtis Jones 51
Rewatch: Albania v England MU21s
Watch the Young Lions as they travel to Albania in their EURO qualifier