England U21s picked up another impressive victory in their build-up to next summer’s U21 Euro Finals, beating Italy by 2-1 in Ferrara.
A brace from Liverpool striker Dominic Solanke proved enough for Aidy Boothroyd’s Young Lions on the night, in what was a hard-fought and testing game against the nation who will host the Finals next June.
- U21 International Match
- Thursday 15 November
- Stadio Paolo Mazza, Ferrara
- Live on BT Sport
It wasn’t just Solanke’s goals and the build-up to them which will please Boothroyd most though, as England had to show their resolve throughout particularly at the start and end of the game.
In fact, England were fortunate not to be behind within a minute, as they were almost caught out from the kick-off as Azzurrini debutant Nicolo Zaniolo skied a golden opportunity from close range after Italy broke through from the right.
Another Italian chance went begging shortly after that, before England re-grouped and picked themselves up to take the lead in the eighth minute.
Jay Dasilva started the move with a darting run down the left before flicking a pass into Ryan Sessegnon. The Fulham man's cross was absolutely perfect for Solanke, who guided a cushioned header past Emil Audero.
It had come somewhat against the early run of play, but gave England a base on which to build and they went on to have a few more chances before the break.
In particular, Demarai Gray forced a good save from Audero after receiving an excellent pass from Phil Foden just inside the Italian half and embarking on a run at goal.
But the hosts drew level just before the break when Vittorio Parigini delivered a fine cross from the right for Moises Kean to power an outstanding header past Dean Henderson and into the top corner.
Skipper Lewis Cook almost restored the lead for England in stoppage time, when he unleashed a powerful shot from 25-yards which came crashing back off the bar after the slightest of touches from Audero.
And Henderson then had to make an equally stunning save to turn Rolando Mandragora’s fierce shot over the bar seconds before half time.
It took just eight minutes after the restart for England to regain their lead and again, the goal came from a familiar source.
Sessegnon and Tom Davies exchanged passes on the left, before Dasilva over-lapped, looked up and placed a cross into the area where Solanke found a yard of space to side-foot home and grab his second of the game.
Italy, hoping to find some form in the build-up to next year’s Euro Finals, put the Young Lions under pressure in the later stages particularly from set-pieces but couldn’t find another equaliser.
The second half also saw Boothroyd utilise his squad, with Tammy Abraham, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Reiss Nelson adding some spice and muscle to the front line while Lloyd Kelly, on for Jake Clarke-Salter since the third minute, impressed in defence.
Boothroyd and his squad will now head north across Europe to Esbjerg where they will face another of next summer’s potential Euro opponents, Denmark.
That game will also be shown live on BT Sport.
England U21s: 1 Dean Henderson (Sheffield United, loan from Manchester United), 2 Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham Hotspur), 3 Jay Dasilva (Bristol City, loan from Chelsea), 4 Lewis Cook (AFC Bournemouth) (C), 5 Jake Clarke-Salter (Vitesse Arnhem, loan from Chelsea), 6 Fikayo Tomori (Derby County, loan from Chelsea), 7 Demarai Gray (Leicester City), 8 Tom Davies (Everton), 9 Dominic Solanke (Liverpool), 10 Phil Foden (Manchester City), 11 Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Substitutes: 16 Lloyd Kelly (Bristol City) for Clarke-Salter 4, 19 Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) for Solanke 63, 20 Reiss Nelson (Hoffenheim, loan from Arsenal) for Gray 63, 17 Kieron Dowell (Everton) for Davies 69, 23 Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa, loan from Chelsea) for Sessegnon 69
Substitutes not used: 13 Angus Gunn (Southampton), 22 Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United)
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Goals: Dominic Solanke 8, 53
Cautions: Dominic Solanke, Tom Davies, Tammy Abraham