England Under-18s rattled by Croatia comeback

Monday 03 Mar 2014
England Under-18 midfielder Dele Alli tries to break free

England U18s were hit by a second-half comeback at St. George’s Park, as they lost the first game of this week’s double-header with Croatia.

After an impressive first half display from Neil Dewsnip’s Young Lions, in which Chelsea striker Alex Kiwomya had given them a deserved lead, there looked to be little sign of what was to come from a labouring Croatian side.

England U18s 1-2 Croatia

International friendly
St. George's Park
2 March 2014



But they were completely re-incarnated after the break and caught England cold with two goals in six minutes to seal their victory.

There were plenty of positives for England to take though, with elements of their play catching the eye and some impressive individual performances.

They took the lead inside 10 minutes with their first real attack of the game. 

Manchester City winger Branden Barker set off on a powerful run and then worked on to Demarai Gray on the right. 

When he beat his man in the area, a cross to the far post was nodded back by Cameron Brannagan for Kiwomya to strike home a low left-footer past Ivo Brbic.

Dele Alli should really have doubled England’s advantage after 22 minutes when Kiwomya’s turn of pace and pass set him clear into the area, but after tumbling under Duje Caleta-Car’s challenge rather than opting for a first-time shot, any half-hearted penalty appeals were ruled out.

With Croatia largely restricted to shots from distance during the first period, England always looked the more likely scorers and Livepool’s Brannagan was just a whisker away from making it 2-0 moments before half time. 

Collecting a pass from the lively Manchester City winger Branden Barker, Brannagan controlled well before curling a right-footer just wide of the post and that miss would prove to be crucial.

Dele Alli England Under-18s

Dele Alli in action against Croatia


Croatia were sent back out early for the second half by boss Zoran Vulic, with his voice undoubtedly still ringing in their ears and their performance certainly picked up after the break.

With captain Ante Roguljic always looking dangerous from set-pieces during the first half, it was no surprise when his free-kick from the right picked out defender Marko Stolnik in the area just shy of the hour mark. The ball bounced kindly for Stolnik, and he needed no invitation to smash home a powerful right-footer past the exposed Callum Burton.

The momentum was with the visitors and Burton had to make a smart save to deny Petar Mamic moments later, turning the left-back’s low drive wide of the post.

But he could not prevent them from taking the lead in the 65th minute when sub Nikola Vlasic was picked out on the edge of the area, before striking a low shot past Burton via a slight deflection.

England recovered to enjoy plenty of possession after that, but with the Croatians looking solid and composed in defence to hold on, clear chances were hard to find.

And with a number of substitutions made after the goal by both teams too, the rhythm had been lost somewhat with England’s first-half threats having been nullified.

England U18s boss Neil Dewsnip reflects on Croatia game


But Wednesday brings another game between the nations, with Dewsnip and his staff having chance to get back on the training ground with their squad before then.

England U18s: (4-3-3) 1 Callum Burton (Shrewsbury Town); 2 Kyle Knoyle (West Ham United), 5 Reece Burke (West Ham United), 6 Ashley Smith-Brown (Manchester City), 3 Ben Chilwell (Leicester City); 4 Bryn Morris (c) (Middlesbrough), 8 Dele Alli (MK Dons), 10 Cameron Brannagan (Liverpool); 7 Demarai Gray (Birmingham City), 9 Alex Kiwomya (Chelsea), 11 Branden Barker (Manchester City).

Substitutes: 14 Reece Brown (Birmingham) for Burke, 66; 15 Dean Rittenburg (Blackburn) for Barker, 68; 17 Emmanuel Sonupe (Tottenham) for Gray, 76); 16 Jermaine Anderson (Peterborough Utd) for Alli 87

Substitutes not used: 13 Charlie Grainger (Leyton Orient), 12 Charlie Colkett (Chelsea),18 Jack Whatmough (Portsmouth).

Goals: Alex Kiwomya 8

Croatia U18s: 1 Ivo Gbic, 2 Marko Stolnik, 3 Petar Mamic, 4 Ivan Sunjic, 5 Duje Caleta-Car, 6 Franjo Prce, 7 Marin Akolis, 8 Bojan Knezevic, 9 Fran Brodic, 10 Ante Roguljic (c), 11 Elvir Maloku.

Substitutes: 17 Nikola Vlasic for Akolis 46; 13 Andrija Balic, for Brodic 61; 16 Ante Blazevic for Maloku, 61; 18 Karlo Lilic for Roguljic, 76; 15 Ante Coric for Knezevic, 76; 14 Hrvojo Dzijan for Stolnik 83.

Substitutes not used: 12 Dario Miskic.

Goals: Stolnik 59, Vasic 65

Bookings: Mamic 30, Sunjic 58

Referee: Chris Kavanagh

By Nicholas Veevers Content Manager - FA Owned Channels St. George's Park