England MU21s continued their impressive start to the new UEFA U21 EURO qualifying campaign with a comprehensive 5-1 victory over Austria in Milton Keynes.
The Young Lions came into the game knowing they were facing a team who had won all three of their games so far and sat in pole position in group three.
But those roles were switched after a scintillating attacking performance put Aidy Boothroyd’s men in control by the break, scoring four goals without reply in the first half thanks to a brace apiece for Callum Hudson-Odoi and Eddie Nketiah.
The goals dried up after the break, but there was still time for Nketiah to complete his hat-trick to secure a scoreline which Austria will feel flattered the hosts.
Hudson-Odoi had the crowd on their feet with little more than ten minutes on the clock, with a sumptuous opener. A precise diagonal ball from Lloyd Kelly at the back picked out Max Aarons in the final third, and when the full-back took the ball in his stride and pulled a cross back into the area, Hudson-Odoi stroked home a super side-foot volley into the roof of the goal.
And it was Kelly who played a key part in the second goal, when the Bournemouth man met Dwight McNeil’s corner with a firm downward header. It flew goalwards, where Nketiah was on the spot to swivel and get the slightest touch to guide it home from close range despite the best efforts of Marco Friedl to clear.
Nketiah’s clinical nature was highlighted again less than ten minutes later, when McNeil clipped an excellent cross into the box where the striker was on the spot to head home into the bottom corner.
Austria, who had had their share of attacks in the early stages were shell-shocked and it got worse for them just before the break. An attacking free-kick was nodded clear by Aarons straight to the feet of Hudson-Odoi. He took off and burst into the Austrian half before effortlessly placing a shot from 25 yards past the helpless Fabian Ehmann.
It had been an electric first half for England, and they didn’t let up the momentum after the break with captain Tom Davies getting on the end of a Phil Foden free-kick only to see his effort straight at Ehmann.
The Austrians pulled a goal back just after the hour mark, when England switched off for a second to allow Lucas Malicsek's cross from the right reach Christophe Baumgartner and he headed firmly home past Aaron Ramsdale.
But the four-goal advantage was renewed with just over ten minutes remaining when substitutes Steve Sessegnon and Rhian Brewster combined on the left before Nketiah finished off the latter’s cross to complete his hat-trick.
And he should’ve had a fourth to his name, when he saw a late penalty saved by Ehmann after Brewster had been felled by the Austrian keeper.
But Boothroyd and his players will be more than happy with the outcome, as they turn their attentions to next month's games on the road with Albania and the Netherlands.
England: 1 Aaron Ramsdale (AFC Bournemouth), 2 Max Aarons (Norwich City), 5 Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth), 6 Tom Davies (Everton) (c ), 7 Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), 8 Joe Willock (Arsenal), 9 Eddie Nketiah (Leeds United, loan from Arsenal), 10 Phil Foden (Manchester City), 15 Marc Guehi (Chelsea), 18 James Justin (Leicester City), 20 Dwight McNeil (Burnley)
Substitutes: 11 Steven Sessegnon (Fulham) for Aarons 61, 19 Rhian Brewster (Liverpool) for McNeil 61, 16 Oliver Skipp (Tottenham Hotspur) for Willock 74, 23 Sam Surridge (Swansea City, loan from AFC Bournemouth) for Nketiah 86, 21 Conor Gallager (Charlton Athletic, loan from Chelsea) for Hudson-Odoi 87
Substitutes not used: 22 Ellery Balcombe (Viborg, loan from Brentford), 3 Jon Panzo (Cercle Bruges, loan from Monaco), 12 Omar Richards (Reading), 14 Ben Wilmot (Swansea City, loan from Watford)
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Goals: Callum Hudson-Odoi 12, 45, Eddie Nketiah 28, 39, 79
Cautions: James Justin 35