England MU21s slipped to a late defeat against the Netherlands in Doetincham, where a stunning free-kick from Javairo Dilrosun in stoppage time won it for the Dutch.
It had looked as though the Young Lions were going to end their 2019 fixtures with what would’ve been a creditable draw, after a second-half goal from substitute Mason Greenwood had equalised Kaj Sierhuis’s effort before the break.
But there was nothing anyone in Aidy Boothroyd’s team could’ve done to keep our Dilrosun’s dipping, swerving free-kick from 25 yards after what had been an entertaining and well-matched contest.
After making it four wins from four games in their U21 EURO qualifying group in Albania earlier in the week, Boothroyd took the chance to give more members of his squad a chance to impress against the Dutch with four players making their full U21 debuts.
In the early exchanges, a rising shot from Grady Diangana proved to be the best of England’s early play before the hosts began to exert their advantage.
Aaron Ramsdale, captaining the team for the first time, was forced into his first real save to parry away Ludovit Reis’s awkward shot in 18th minute.
And five minutes later, the Dutch steamed ahead when a quick exchange of passing saw Dilrosun play in Dey Zeefuik on the right. His low cross was met by Sierhuis in the six yard box, just ahead of Ramsdale and he lifted the ball over him before finishing it off on the line.
Ramsdale was worked again just after the half-hour mark when he had to tip Justin Kluivert’s low shot around the post, after the ball fell to the Roma man on the edge of the box following a corner from the right.
But England worked their way back into the game and should’ve been level ten minutes before the break, when Conor Gallagher did well on the left to dig out a cross to the far post where the unmarked Rhian Brewster headed over.
James Justin then tested Kjell Scherpen with a low right-footer after advancing into the box from left-back as England ended the first half on the front foot.
They started the second half brightly too, with Phil Foden often at the heart of possession and England’s attacks.
And they really should’ve had a penalty in the 57th minute when Brewster latched onto Foden’s slide-rule pass into the box, only to be tripped by Dutch sub Tyrell Malacia. All eyes turned to the referee, but he ruled out a spot-kick.
Despite England’s dominance of the second half, it was the Dutch who came close to doubling their advantage when sub Abdou Harroui’s fine run into the box ended with a shot which Ramsdale somehow diverted onto the bar.
But England drew level with 15 minutes remaining when Foden’s chip forward into space was perfect for Greenwood’s fresh legs. The Manchester United man was aided by confusion between Dutch defender Rick van Drongelen and keeper Scherpen, but he still had a lot to do as he finished from an oblique angle to register his first U21 goal.
There was a late save from Ramsdale to deny sub Ferdi Kadioglu’s shot in the box, but the best was saved for last as Dilrosun did the business with his free-kick over the wall and into the top corner in stoppage time.
England: 1 Aaron Ramsdale (AFC Bournemouth) (c), 2 Max Aarons (Norwich City), 10 Phil Foden (Manchester City), 14 Trevoh Chalobah (Huddersfield Town, loan from Chelsea), 15 Marc Guehi (Chelsea), 16 Oliver Skipp (Tottenham Hotspur), 17 Grady Diangana (West Bromwich Albion, loan from West Ham), 18 James Justin (Leicester City), 19 Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), 21 Conor Gallagher (Charlton Athletic, loan from Chelsea), 23 Ebere Eze (Queens Park Rangers).
Substitutes: 7 Reiss Nelson (Arsenal) for Eze 62, 9 Mason Greenwood (Manchester United) for Brewster 62, 20 Dwight McNeil (Burnley) for Gallagher 62, 12 Reece James (Chelsea) for Aarons 62, 11 Ryan Sessegnon (Tottenham Hotspur) for Diangana 76, 8 Joe Willock (Arsenal) for Foden 79
Substitutes not used: 22 Ellery Balcombe (Viborg, loan from Brentford), 3 Jon Panzo (Cercles Bruges, loan from Monaco), 4 Ben Godfrey (Norwich City), 6 Tom Davies (Everton)
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Goals: Mason Greenwood 75
Netherlands: 1 Kjell Scherpen, 2 Dey Zeefuik, 3 Perr Schuurs, 4 Rick van Drongelen, 5 Owen Wijndal, 6 Ludovit Reis, 7 Javairo Dilrosun, 8 Teun Koopmeiners (C ), 9 Kaj Sierhuis, 10 Dani de Wit, 11 Justin Kluivert.
Substitutes: 12 Danilho Doekhi for Wijndal 46, 15 Tyrell Malacia for Schuurs 46, 18 Abdou Harroui for Koopmeiners 46, 14 Cody Gakpo for Sierhuis 67, 20 Tahith Chong for Kluivert 79, 19 Ferdi Kadioglu for Reis 88
Substitutes not used: 16 Maerton Paes, 23 Jan Hoekstra, 13 Justin Hoogma, 17 Sherel Floranaus, 21 Daishawn Redan.
Head coach: Erwin van de Looi
Goals: Kaj Sierhuis 23, Javairo Dilrosun 90