England U21s 1-0 Wales
European Championship qualifier
iPro Stadium, Derby
5 March 2014
While the scoreline may suggest a tight affair, it was anything but, as England bossed a game in terms of possession and territory but were only rewarded with one goal against a Wales team determined to shut out their hosts.
Boss Gareth Southgate has spoken throughout the campaign about how his side would have to deal with situations such as this and the Three Lions needed to show their determination to keep plugging away against a stubborn Welsh outfit.
And when the goal arrived from lively Norwich City winger Redmond, it allowed England to go on and make it five wins out of five home games and help cement their place at the top of Group One.
It took 24 minutes for either team to register an attempt at goal, with Ravel Morrison’s low shot from 25 yards arrowed just wide of the post after the midfielder had managed to find a pocket of space amongst the mass of red shirts.
But despite England’s dominance of the ball, it was Wales who had the first clear opening of the game when lone striker Wes Burns was sent clear on the break.
After doing well to hold off John Stones, who was in hot pursuit, the Bristol City striker could only fire his shot wide of the far post to save England’s blushes.
The Three Lions had an equally good chance 10 minutes before the break though, when Jack Robinson clipped a perfect pass forward to Redmond, whose brilliant first touch took him away from Kieron Freeman in one move.
It opened up in the box for Redmond, but he dragged his shot wide of the post when he should really have at least tested Connor Roberts.
Thomas Ince then tried his luck after skipping past Declan John down the right, but he could not find the target either as Southgate’s side struggled to make the breakthrough.
Seconds after the restart England came even closer, although it was Wales defender Joe Walsh’s clearance from a Saido Berahino cross which bounced agonisingly wide of the post.
Wales then forced England into some defensive work, but Tom Lawrence’s free-kick was blocked by the defensive wall before his follow-up cross was cleared by Nathaniel Chalobah.
And moments after that, England had the breakthrough as the ball was fed to Redmond on the left.
He tricked his way inside, past both Freeman and Scott Tancock, before striking a low shot past Roberts from 25 yards, which nestled neatly in the bottom corner.
It was just what the game, and England, needed and brought Wales out of their defensive mindset in search of an equaliser.
And it was through set-pieces where that appeared the most likely, with Lawrence and Tom O’Sullivan looking dangerous from dead-ball situations.
But England weathered that early storm of Welsh intent, before going back on the front foot in search of a killer second goal.
Ince saw a looping shot land on the roof of the goal and Berahino headed over from close range, as the Welsh resistance tried to hang on.
Roberts then made a fine fingertip stop to turn Tom Carroll’s low shot around the post with just over 10 minutes to go.
And Roberts kept his side’s hopes of a draw alive when he blocked sub Danny Ings’ shot, after he had been set up by Derby County’s Will Hughes.
But Redmond’s goal proved enough and England now have to wait until May for their next game, when they face the return fixture with Wales before rounding off their qualifiers next September with the trip to Moldova and Lithuania.
England (4-3-3): 1 Jack Butland (Leeds United) (c); 2 Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal), 5 John Stones (Everton), 14 Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea), 3 Jack Robinson (Blackpool); 4 Tom Carroll (QPR), 8 James Ward-Prowse (Southampton), 10 Ravel Morrison (QPR); 7 Tom Ince (Crystal Palace), 9 Saido Berahino (WBA), 11 Nathan Redmond (Norwich City).
Substitutes: 18 Danny Ings (Burnley) for Berahino 67, 15 Will Hughes for Morrison 71, 12 Liam Moore (Leicester City) for Chalobah 74.
Substitutes not used: 13 Jonathan Bond (Watford),16 Jesse Lingard (Brighton & Hove Albion), 17 Wilf Zaha (Cardiff City).
Head coach: Gareth Southgate
Goals: Nathan Redmond 56
Wales: 1 Connor Roberts, 2 Kieron Freeman, 3 Declan John, 4 Lee Lucas (c), 5 Scott Tancock, 6 Joe Walsh, 7 Tom Lawrence, 8 Josh Pritchard, 9 Wes Burns, 10 Tom O’Sullivan, 11 Lloyd Isgrove.
Substitutes: 14 Lee Evans for O’Sullivan 66, 18 Rob Ogleby for Burns 78, 16 George Williams for Pritchard 83.
Substitutes not used: 12 Christian Dibble, 13 Morgan Fox, 15 Elliott Hewitt, 17 Gwion Edwards,
Manager: Geraint Williams
Referee: Nicolas Rainville (France)
Assistant referees: Laurent Stein & Fredji Harchay (France).