England U16s slip to narrow defeat by Belgium at SGP

Wednesday 20 Aug 2014
Dan Micciche instructs four of his England youngsters

An impressive England U16 side succumbed to a late sucker punch in a see-saw encounter with Belgium at St. George's Park.

After taking a two-goal advantage, the Young Lions looked to be in complete control, but a 30-minute flurry from the visitors turned the game on its head, before a strike five minutes from time sealed a 4-3 victory for the Belgians in a pulsating clash.

Instead of the usual 90-minute format, both coaches had agreed to play the game over four separate periods of 30 minutes, which would enable them to give each member of their squads an hour's playing time.

England 3-4 Belgium

An U16 International
3pm, Wednesday 20 August 2014
St. George's Park

Dan Micciche’s England were quickly out of the traps, setting a fast tempo, and they opened the scoring inside three minutes.

A nice build-up down the right caught the vistors’ defence flat-footed, and Martell Crossdale found lashed home an angled effort from 14 yards.

Micciche will have been pleased with the way his side were dictating the tempo in the windy conditions, with quick interplay, especially down the right, leaving the Belgian defence dumbfounded as they struggled to cope.

Kairo Arlott-John, Tom Bishiru and Crossdale impressed up front while Dujon Sterling and Keanan Bennett struck up a sound partnership in midfield.

Belgium were restricted to just a few chances. Jules Vanhaecke was denied by a great recovery run from Jordan Williams, and a long ranger from Michiel De Looze was easily smothered by England goalkeeper Jared Thompson.

The second quarter began in similar fashion to the first, with the hosts quick to attack, and Arlott-John was the first to pull the trigger, collecting the ball out left before cutting inside and hitting a dipper just over the bar from 20 yards.

Belgium were still struggling to mount a proper attack, with captain Andre Dozzell, son of former Ipswich and Tottenham midfielder Jason, in impressive form in the heart of the England midfield - and it was only a matter of time before a second goal arrived.

It was Crossdale again who provided the finish, tapping home Arlott-John’s pull back into an empty net to secure his brace on 46 minutes.

England almost allowed their opponents back into the contest on the hour mark, but Thompson stood up well to deny Vanhaecke when the forward was clean through to preserve the two-goal advantage at 60-minute break.

Line-ups for first half

England (4-2-3-1): 1 Jared Thompson (Chelsea); 2 Dujon Sterling (Chelsea), 5 Jordan Williams (Huddersfield Town), 6 Tolaji Bola (Arsenal), 3 Jaden Brown (Tottenham Hotspur); 4 Andre Dozzell (C; Ipswich Town), 8 Charlie Gilmour (Arsenal); 7 Keanan Bennett (Tottenham Hotspur), 10 Tom Bishiru (Manchester City), 11 Kairo Arlott-John (Leicester City); 9 Martell Crossdale (Chelsea).

Substitutes: 20 Joseph Willock (Arsenal) for Williams (52)

Goals: Crossdale (3), (46)

Belgium: 1 Mille Svilar; 13 Natanael Frenoy, 14 Sebastiaan Bornauw, 4 Christian Da Silva Katalay, 5 Ward Verwerft; 8 Paolo Sabak, 6 Senne Kynen, 21 Jerome Deom; 10 Murad-Han Gonen (C), 11 Michiel De Looze; 9 Jules Vanhaecke.

Micciche made his full compliment of changes for the second hour of action - and he also introduced a diamond into the midfield.

The Young Lions failed to create many chances after the break as Belgium hit back in impressive fashion – and they got themselves back into it just seven minutes after the restart. De Looze found Thibaut Verlinden, who unleashed a great first-time finish to halve the deficit.

Ten minutes later the goalscorer nearly had a second as his ferocious long-range strike cannoned back off the crossbar, but the English defence failed to clear, and Andre Bongiovanni unleashed a rocket from 25 yards to level the scores.

England retaliated with Joseph Willock laying a free-kick off for left-back Cole Dasilva, who sent it just over the bar with a powerful strike. 

However, the hosts were struggling to gain the upper hand in the second half, and they eventually found themselves behind on 85 minutes - Boufous holding off his marker to square for Bongiovanni, and he cheekily grabbed his second with a back heel from eight yards.

To their credit, England looked a much stronger proposition in the final quarter as they once again regained their grip on the proceedings.

They seemed to have a lot more time on the ball and they made it count as they got themselves back into the contest.

Reiss Nelson struck a curling free-kick just over the bar as Micciche's youngsters began to build momentum. Mason Mount and Eze Ebuzoemu were beginning to take control in the middle, and it was the latter who created the equaliser, sending a perfect cross towards the head of Dan N'Lundalu who headed past the helpless Brent Gabriel on 101 minutes.

As the match neared its end, both teams pushed for an equaliser, making for an entertaining last few minutes, and it was to be a cruel finish for England.

After capitalising on a defensive mistake, the ball arrived at Boufus’s feet - and his finish off the inside off the post with five minutes remaining proved to be the final blow in an exciting and entertaining match.

England (4-4-2): 13 Thomas Dyche (Stoke City); 12 Owen Moore (Arsenal), 15 Japhet Tanganga (Tottenham Hotspur), 16 Lewis Thompson (Manchester United), 22 Cole Dasilva (C; Chelsea); 14 Eze Ebuzoemu (Millwall); 17 Odin Bailey (Birmingham City) 21 Reiss Nelson (Arsenal), 18 Mason Mount (Chelsea); 20 Joseph Willock (Arsenal), 19 Dan N'Lundalu (Southampton).

Substitutes: 9 Martell Crossdale for Willock (113)

Goals: N'Lundalu (102)

Belgium: 12 Brent Gabriel; 13 Natanael Frenoy, 3 Zinho Vanheusden (c), 16 Hannes Delcroix, 2 Medard Rolfes; 18 Milan Corryn; 15 Ismael-Ngedi Lukoki, 20 Francesco Antonucci, 17 Adrien Bongiovanni, 7 Thibaut Verlinden; 19 Younes Boufous.

Goals: Verlinden (67), Bongiovanni (77), (85), Boufus (115).

By Gary Stonehouse Staff Writer at St. George's Park