England Under-21s suffered their first defeat under Gareth Southgate in an entertaining encounter with France.
The Three Lions came into the match after a run of 12 games without defeat and 11 successive victories under head coach Southgate, but met their match against a powerful and imposing French side on a damp night in Brest.
France 3-2 England
Stade Francis-Le Ble, Brest
Monday 17 November 2014
A first-half brace from Spurs striker Harry Kane had put England in control, but as the rainy conditions worsened and the pitch became heavier, the hosts were able to exert their power and bombard their way back level.
And it was a response fashioned from the other side of north London which did it, as Arsenal striker and Les Bleus skipper Yaya Sanogo netted two opportunistic goals for his side to set them up for a second-half comeback.
England always knew they were in for a tough test in Brittany though and that was just what Southgate’s side got against a team who narrowly missed out on a place in next summer’s Euro Finals after a shock play-off defeat against Sweden.
They started with the urgency of a team eager to prove a point as Jonathan Bond was called into action after six minutes when Gianelli Imbula Wanga fired in a low shot, which the Watford keeper did well to parry to safety.
The wonderfully named Paul-Georges Ntep De Madiba then shot well over the bar after collecting a cross from Antoine Conte on the right and cutting inside.
Midfielder Florian Thauvin was the next to try his luck, but curled his left-footer over the bar from just outside the box.
But England took the lead after 20 minutes, when Michael Keane won possession on the half way line. He picked out Burnley team-mate Nathaniel Chalobah, who in turn found Tom Ince.
The Forest winger played a fine pass between two defenders for Kane, who clipped a lovely finish over the advancing Alphonse Areola to put his side ahead.
And two minutes later the Spurs striker had his second of the night, tapping home at the far post after Ince’s low shot had beaten Areola following another decisive pass from Chalobah.
France re-found their attacking intent almost immediately and forced their way back into the game just short of the half-hour mark.
An attack from the left was worked out to Conte on the opposite side and when he struck a low shot from the angle through a crowd of players, Sanogo stuck out a boot to guide it home and bring his side right back into the contest.
England were not helped by seeing both Chalobah and Ben Gibson forced off soon after as France upped the pressure, with Jake Forster-Caskey and Carl Jenkinson called upon to replace them.
And moments after Gibson’s departure, the hosts took advantage to draw level when Bond’s save from Wanga was punished. Madiba returned the ball into the centre for Sanogo to finish from close range.
Southgate introduced Danny Ings in place of Alex Pritchard at the break with a slight change in formation to try and get a foothold back in the match.
It appeared to have worked too, as England started the second half with better retention of the ball and with the added threat of Burnley ace Ings.
France still posed danger though and Bond had to watch the ball carefully when Wanga fired a free-kick at him in the 59th minute.
Sanogo then flashed a shot into the side-netting before Kingsley Coman smashed a shot over the stand and out of the ground in search of the lead.
Callum Wilson came on for his debut to replace Kane and gave the French defence a different type of problem with his pace and direct approach.
But it was France’s sub Coman who had the ultimate impact, by drilling a shot past Bond, after Madiba’s run inside from the left took him past both Jenkinson and Jamaal Lascelles before he was able to set-up his team-mate.
England chased an equaliser, but with France ever-dangerous with their pace on the break, it was always going to be tough to breach them again.
France Under-21s (4-3-3): 16 Alphonse Areola; 5 Antoine Conte, 19 Jean Phillippe Gbamin, 4 Aymeric Laporte, 12 Benjamin Mendy; 6 Corentin Tolisso, 7 Paul-Georges Ntep De Madiba, 17 Jordan Veretout; 18 Gianelli Imbula Wanga, 9 Yaya Sanogo (c ), 14 Florian Thauvin.
Substitutes: 11 Kingsley Coman for Thauvin 64, 8 Tiemoue Bakayoko for Wanga 64, 10 Morgan Sanson for Tolisso 74,
Substitutes not used: 1 Paul Nardi, 2 Dimitri Foulquier, 3 Jordan Amavi, 15 Jean-Christophe Baheback
Goals: Conte 29, Sanogo 44, Comen 73
Cautions: Tolisso 68, Mendy 81,
Head coach: Pierre Mankowski
England Under-21s (4-3-3): 1 Jonathan Bond (Watford); 2 Michael Keane (Burnley, loan from Manchester United), 6 Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest, loan from Newcastle United), 5 Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough), 3 Luke Garbutt (Everton); 8 Alex Pritchard (Brentford, loan from Tottenham Hotspur), 4 Nathaniel Chalobah (Burnley, loan from Chelsea), 10 Tom Carroll (captain; Swansea City on loan from Tottenham Hotspur); 7 Tom Ince (Nottingham Forest, loan from Hull City), 9 Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), 11 Nathan Redmond (Norwich City).
Substitutes: 16 Jake Forster-Caskey (Brighton & Hove Albion) for Chalobah 33; 14 Carl Jenkinson (West Ham, loan from Arsenal) for Gibson 42; 18 Danny Ings (Burnley) for Pritchard 46; 20 Callum Wilson (AFC Bournemouth) for Kane 66.
Substitutes not used: 12 Jack Robinson (Huddersfield Town, loan from QPR), 13 Jack Butland (Derby County, loan from Stoke City), 15 Will Hughes (Derby County), 17 Patrick Bamford (Middlesbrough, loan from Chelsea), 19 Cauley Woodrow (Fulham).
Goals: Kane 20, 22
Cautions: Carroll, Lascelles.
Head coach: Gareth Southgate
Assistant referee: Angelo Boonman and Dave Goossens (France)
Fourth official: Philippe Jeanne (France)
Watch the highlights of the game in Brest