Report: England MU18s 2-1 Belgium
England men's under-18s made it three wins from three games at the Costa Cálida Supercup in their final match with Belgium, but had to work hard for it on a warm Monday morning at the Pinatar Arena.
Head coach Neil Ryan made ten changes to the side that saw off the Faroe Islands on Friday, with Manchester City’s Joel Ndala the only player to keep his spot.
And it was Belgium who had the better of the first half, comfortable in possession and pressing high to stop England getting out of their own half. Lively forwards Stanis Idumbo Muzambo and Malick Fofana both combined well to cause problems for England’s backline, but couldn’t force any clear-cut chances of note early on.
Over midway through the first half, a drinks break was signalled by referee Campos Salinas, allowing Ryan to get some key messages across to his Young Lions in the hope of turning the momentum in their favour.
However, England couldn’t get much of a foothold in the contest after play resumed, as Belgium continued to probe.
A well-worked move saw Belgium create their best chance of breaking the deadlock ten minutes before the interval when Manchester City stopper True Grant, son of former Derby, Burnley, and Manchester United goalkeeper Lee, had to make a fine save to keep the scores level.
But the Young Lions responded well after the break and came out of the blocks refreshed in the second half – having two efforts in two minutes.
The first chance in particular showed England’s ability to move the ball incisively and with purpose. Ndala, who switched to the left flank to get at the Belgium defence, picked out Arsenal’s Amario Cozier-Duberry on the right but he could only shoot straight at the goalkeeper.
A fast-paced beginning to the second half continued when Belgium had a huge chance to take the lead, but Fofana was unable to stretch enough to make clean contact from six yards after the ball was flashed in low from the left by Idumbo Muzambo.
A frantic five minutes then ensued, with Grant having to make a crucial double save – first low to his right and then high to his left as England were put on the backfoot.
And after 68 minutes, an unfortunate breakdown in communication between Grant and captain Josh Feeney (pictured above) led to the defender heading backwards over his oncoming goalkeeper and into an empty net to give Belgium the lead.
But England didn’t let their heads drop and were back level three minutes later as Cozier-Duberry linked up cleverly with Jamie Donley to break into the box and smash the ball home from a tight angle.
Grant, quickly becoming the standout performer on the day, again had to be on his toes to produce another superb stop, this time from point blank range, and again from a low ball across the face of goal from the Belgian left which was stabbed goalward.
It was to prove crucual, as ten minutes from time substitute Dominic Ballard, scorer of both goals on Friday, got the winner for England as he poked home past Belgium ‘keeper Tom Poitoux.
The Little Red Devils’ second-half showing was chalk and cheese from their first, but they had two final opportunities to snatch a draw. Firstly, a good run by Enock Agyei saw the ball cut back to Roméo Monticelli on the edge of box but the substitute couldn’t find the net.
A series of hopeful long balls forward were largely dealt with by the Young Lions, as Belgium looked for one last chance to salvage something.
That chance came with the final action of the match on 94 minutes, as a Belgian cross from the right was headed on target and destined for the bottom corner, only for Grant to ‘save’ his best until last, as he got down to his left once more and ensured the hard-fought win was England’s.
England: 1 True Grant (Manchester City), 2 Jacob Wright (Manchester City), 3 Lino Sousa (Arsenal), 4 Kobbie Mainoo (Manchester United), 5 Tyler Fredricson (Manchester United), 6 Josh Feeney (Aston Villa) (c), 7 Joel Ndala (Manchester City), 8 Jobe Bellingham (Birmingham City), 9 Jamie Donley (Tottenham Hotspur), 10 Nico O’Reilly (Manchester City), 11 Amario Cozier-Duberry (Arsenal).
Substitutions: 14 Bobby Clark (Liverpool) on for O’Reilly (45’), 21 Kane Taylor (Manchester City) on for Sousa (45’), William Alves (Leicester City) on for Ndala (60’), 23 Sai Sachdev (Sheffield United) on for Wright (60’), 20 Dominic Ballard (Southampton) on for Donley (74’), 16 Leo Castledine (Chelsea) on for Bellingham (77’), 12 Alfie Dorrington (Tottenham Hotspur) on for Fredricson (77’), 15 Harry Whitwell (West Bromwich Albion) on for Mainoo (89’), 18 Samuel Rak-Sakyi (Chelsea) on for Cozier-Duberry (89’), 19 Max Alleyne (Manchester City) on for Feeney (89’).
Substitutes not used: 13. (GK) Luca Gunter (Tottenham Hotspur), 22. (GK) Tommy Reid (Brighton & Hove Albion).
Goals: Amario Cozier-Duberry (71’), Dominic Ballard (81’)
Head Coach: Neil Ryan
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