England booked their spot at next year’s UEFA U21 EURO Finals as Eddie Nketiah’s record-breaking late winner sealed a hard-fought 2-1 win over Turkey at Molineux.
Having dominated the early exchanges, the Young Lions broke the deadlock through Hüseyin Türkmen’s unfortunate own goal, and Nketiah doubled their advantage late on after missing from the penalty spot and having two goals disallowed.
England MU21s 2-1 Turkey
2021 U21 EURO qualifier
7:30pm BST, Tuesday 13 October
Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton
Aaron Ramsdale kept England in front with a fine penalty save after he tripped Halil Dervisoglu in the second half, but the Turkey frontman did get his goal in the dying moments after threatening the home goal on several occasions.
But Aidy Boothroyd’s men ultimately returned to winning ways after their draw in Andorra last time out, with the three points enough to earn their place at the Championships for the eighth time running.
Boss Boothroyd made eight changes to the side that had been denied victory at the Estadi Nacional, and England looked to assert their authority from the off with Jude Bellingham and Callum Hudson-Odoi threatening Turkey’s left flank early on.
Bellingham was again involved as the Young Lions tested the away defence down the right in the eighth minute, but Ryan Sessegnon couldn’t quite find an end product after good work from Max Aarons.
Turkey were somewhat fortunate to escape without conceding a penalty seven minutes later, as referee Willy Delajod judged Sessegnon to have fouled Cemali Sertel moments before Bellingham was felled in the box.
But the Hoffenheim loanee forced the opener soon after, switching to the left wing and picking up the ball in space before firing in a cross that was deflected past the Turkey goalkeeper by Türkmen, giving England a deserved, 17th minute lead.
Skipper Nketiah thought he had broken the MU21s scoring record eight minutes later, but his close-range finish was chalked off for offside after Josh Dasilva’s effort was tipped onto the post by Altay Bayindir.
Turkey enjoyed a spell of possession around the half-hour mark, and Ramsdale was called into action for the first time to keep out Ahmet Canbaz’s 38th-minute shot, which served as a reminder of the threats posed by the visitors.
And it was the away side who had the first chance of the second period, Ramsdale this time parrying Dervisoglu’s stinging drive after his neat one-two with Ogulcan Ülgün had cut through England’s midfield.
Nketiah had another goal disallowed for offside in the 52nd minute, seconds before Dervisoglu capitalised on a mistake by Oliver Skipp to round Ramsdale, who brought the Brentford man down and conceded a penalty.
The Sheffield United stopper made amends with a fine stop from Dervisoglu’s subsequent effort, and Aarons went about causing the Turkish defence problems as England looked to regain control.
But Turkey continued to threaten and Sertel out-muscled Hudson-Odoi in the box before again testing Ramsdale from a tight angle in the 60th minute, prompting Boothroyd to make his first change of the night with Eberechi Eze entering the fray.
Dervisoglu fired over in the 79th minute before Güven Yalcin went close, but England were afforded the chance to make sure of the three points when Serkan Asan tripped James Justin in the box, only for Nketiah to hit the post from the resulting penalty.
The Arsenal striker did get his 14th goal for the MU21s minutes later with a cool, close-range finish, and while Dervisoglu set up a nervy finish with an injury time strike, England held on to take the spoils.
Eddie Nketiah said: “Turkey were very aggressive and I think we were a bit sloppy at times, but it’s always tough in international football and everyone pulled together to get the three points, which is the most important thing.
“It’s amazing to break the record. Firstly, it’s nice to get the three points, but to get the 14th goal is a dream come true and a proud moment for me and my family. Hopefully I can continue to add to my tally.
“I haven’t looked back at the offside decisions but I knew if I kept going I’d get another chance. I kept my cool after the penalty miss, and it was a nice finish for the goal.”
England: 1 Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United), 2 Max Aarons (Norwich City), 4 Ben Godfrey (Everton), 5 Marc Guehi (Swansea City - loan from Chelsea), 8 Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), 9 Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal) (C), 10 Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), 11 Ryan Sessegnon (1899 Hoffenheim - loan from Tottenham Hotspur), 16 Oliver Skipp (Norwich City - loan from Tottenham Hotspur), 18 James Justin (Leicester City), 20 Josh Dasilva (Brentford)
Substitutes: 17 Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace) for Dasilva 63’, 21 Dwight McNeil (Burnley) for Hudson-Odoi 85’
Substitutes not used: 3 Jonathan Panzo (Dijon), 6 Tom Davies (Everton), 13 Brandon Austin (Tottenham Hotspur), 14 Brandon Williams (Manchester United), 15 Rhys Williams (Liverpool), 19 Sam Surridge (AFC Bournemouth), 22 Josef Bursik (Doncaster Rovers - loan from Stoke City)
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Goals: Türkmen (OG) 17’, Nketiah 88’
Cautions: Skipp 38’, Bellingham 41’