England Under-19s kicked off their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign on Thursday with a 2-0 victory against FYR Macedonia.
The result in Skopje means that – following Italy’s 1-1 draw with Finland – the Young Lions top the four-team qualifying round group, from which two qualify for the Elite Round in the spring of 2016.
Aidy Boothroyd’s side had to work for the three points though, after torrential downpours in the Macedonian capital prior to the kick-off led to a sodden pitch and challenging conditions.
FYR Macedonia 0-2 England
UEFA Under-19 Championship
Thursday 8 October 2015
FFM Training Centre, Skopje
And the first half proved a frustrating affair for both sides as they struggled to bring any rhythm to their passing.
Despite the conditions, England continued to press and push for an opener, and on 67 minutes their persistence paid off.
Chelsea’s Tammy Abraham broke free on the left wing and whipped a dangerous low cross into the path of Adam Armstrong.
With a deft touch the Newcastle United forward – who is turning heads on loan at Coventry after eight goals in nine games – diverted the ball towards goal and past Bobi Celeski.
The deadlock was broken and what had started to become a frustrating afternoon was more a little more comfortable.
Boothroyd made a double-change almost immediately after the opener. Liverpool’s Sheyi Ojo replaced Manchester City starlet Patrick Roberts and Chelsea's Dominic Solanke came on for Armstrong.
The introduction of fresh legs and the confidence afforded by the goal seemed to push the Young Lions on further and they pressed for a second.
But it would be the manager's third and final substitute who put the game out of reach of the hosts.
On 74 minutes Ainsley Maitland-Niles replaced Dan Crowley – who moments earlier had spurned a great chance to make it 2-0.
And after Josh Onomah and Maitland-Niles both went close in the closing stages, the latter of the two doubled the lead in the fourth minute of added time as he latched on to a Tammy Abraham cross to head home.
Next up for Boothroyd’s boys is a game against Finland on Saturday 10 October, before completing the qualifying round phase against Italy three days later.
England (4-2-3-1): 1 Freddie Woodman (Crawley Town, loan from Newcastle United); 12 Kyle Walker-Peters (Tottenham Hotspur) , 6 Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), 5 Taylor Moore (RC Lens), 3 Callum Connolly (Everton); 14 Josh Onomah (Tottenham Hotspur), 4 Jordan Rossiter (Liverpool); 9 Adam Armstrong (Coventry City, loan from Newcastle United), 11 Daniel Crowley (Barnsley, loan from Arsenal), 7 Patrick Roberts (Manchester City); 18 Tammy Abraham (Chelsea).
Substitutes: 17 Sheyi Ojo (Wolverhampton Wanderers, loan from Liverpool) for Roberts 71; Dominic Solanke (Vitesse Arnhem, loan from Chelsea) for Armstrong 71; Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Ipswich Town, loan from Arsenal) for Crowley 74.
Substitutes not used: 13 Sam Howes (West Ham United), Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), Dael Fry (Middlesbrough), Lewis Cook (Leeds United).
Goals: Armstrong 67. Maitland-Niles 90+4.
Bookings: Connolly, Rossiter, Roberts
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
FYR Macedonia (4-2-3-1): 12 Bobi Celeski; 2 Slobodan Bocevski, 5 Nehar Sadiki, 3 Stefan Jevtoski, 6 Sabahudin Alomeroviс; 4 Stefan Lazarevikj, 8 Davor Zdravkovski; 7 Emil Abaz, 10 Valentin Kochoski, 18 Remzifaik Selmani; 9 Petar Petkovski (C).
Substitutes: 11 Martin Hristov for Selmnai 57; 15 Burim Avdulahi in Kochoski 65; 16 Matej Cvetanoski for Petkovski 81.
Substitutes not used: 1 Filip Iliс, 13 Shaip Tela, 14 Hristijan Karanfilovski, 17 Sasho Shoposki,.
Bookings: Lazarevikj, Abaz
Head coach: Goran Stanikj