Tight at the top
With England sitting on top of the qualifying group and the Netherlands in pursuit five points behind, being the only nation to have taken points off the Young Lions in their 1-1 draw a year ago, it was always likely to be a close affair at Carrow Road. The Dutch arrived in Norfolk knowing they really needed a victory to stand a realistic chance of catching England, so the point earned puts Aidy Boothroyd’s side in a strong position needing two wins from their three remaining games: Latvia on Tuesday and then Andorra in Chesterfield and Scotland away next month.
- UEFA European U21 Championship qualifiers
- Thursday 6 September
- Carrow Road, Norwich City
- Live on BT Sport
It was a bright start from the Young Lions, with Dominic Calvert-Lewin proving the main threat for England and seeing two early efforts narrowly off target. But the visitors managed to quickly find their feet to keep them at bay in the first 45 minutes. Both Ryan Sessegnon and Josh Onomah forced saves from Dutch keeper Justin Biglow before the break, while at the other end there were strong Dutch shouts for a penalty when skipper Guus Til tumbled under a challenge from Ezri Konsa in the box, but the referee was unimpressed.
The Young Lions started the game in a new-look formation, with Ben Chilwell joining Dael Fry and Konsa as a third central defender and two wing-backs in the shape of debutant Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Ryan Sessegnon to mirror the formation which the seniors used so successfully in the summer. But Boothroyd slightly altered things at the break in a bid to add more tempo to his team and it almost paid dividends just after the hour mark when Chilwell burst forward to deliver a cross for Sessegnon, whose angled effort flew over the bar.
How’s your touch?
England goalkeeper Dean Henderson raised a few eyebrows and heart-rates early in the second half, expertly controlling a stray long pass from the Dutch outside of his area, killing it dead while under pressure from Sam Lammers, before playing a left-footed pass upfield to set up another attack. Not only was it a show of supreme confidence in his ability from the Manchester United man, currently on loan with Sheffield United, but also a sign of how the current crop of English goalkeepers are equally talented with both their feet and hands.
It was Demarai Gray, one of the best players on the pitch, who came closest to winning it for England in the 83rd minute. The Leicester City forward had been a real threat throughout the game and when he cut in from the left and placed a shot beyond Biglow, it looked as though the deadlock was broken as the ball arrowed towards goal. But unfortunately, it cannoned down off the underside of the bar and out to safety as England were left to settle for a point before turning their attentions to Tuesday’s trip to Latvia where they will hope for better luck.
England: 1 Dean Henderson (Sheffield United, loan from Manchester United), 2 Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace), 3 Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), 4 Lewis Cook (AFC Bournemouth) (c), 5 Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), 6 Ezri Konsa (Brentford), 7 Demarai Gray (Leicester City), 14 Josh Onomah (Tottenham Hotspur), 9 Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton), 10 James Maddison (Leicester City), 11 Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham)
Substitutes: 17 Tom Davies (Everton) for Onomah 65, 20 Dominic Solanke (Liverpool) for Maddison 76, 23 Tammy Abraham (Aston Villa, loan from Chelsea) for Calvert-Lewin 76
Substitutes not used: 8 Kieran Dowell (Everton), 12 Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), 13 Angus Gunn (Southampton), 19 Mason Mount (Derby County, loan from Chelsea)
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd