Dan Ndoye’s second-half strike saw England men's under-21s succumb to defeat in their 2021 UEFA U21 EURO Finals opener against Switzerland on Thursday.
The Young Lions were left frustrated for much of the match in Koper, with Lloyd Kelly going closest for Aidy Boothroyd’s side before the break while Andi Zegiri brought the best out of Aaron Ramsdale.
It was much the same in the second half, with Bastien Toma striking a post for the Swiss while Callum Hudson-Odoi had his free-kick smartly saved by goalkeeper Anthony Racioppi.
And it took a moment of quality from Ndoye late on to secure the victory as his effort looped into the far corner, to give the Swiss a win in their first appearance in the competition since 2011.
England were given an early scare in Slovenia, with Ramsdale having to be on his toes to deny Zeqiri one-on-one, after the Swiss striker capitalised on a rare lapse at the back from Ben Godfrey.
Seconds after that let off, the Young Lions had their first real attempt of their own, as Hudson-Odoi teed up Tom Davies, but the Everton midfielder’s long-range effort whistled over the bar.
Hudson-Odoi then had a chance of his own midway through the first half, as he picked up the ball on the corner of the penalty area before slaloming between defenders, but his powerful strike evaded Racioppi’s far post.
The early proceedings continued to be end-to-end, with Switzerland forcing the next opening as Ramsdale had to get down to his right-hand side to deny Toni Domgjoni, before Zeqiri looped a header wide.
Kelly and Godfrey both put headers the wrong side of the post at the other end, as neither side could find the breakthrough before the break.
But the Swiss came flying out the blocks in the second half and created the match’s best opportunity just minutes after the restart, with Toma firing an effort that rattled the right-hand post.
In a game that ebbed and flowed from one end to another, it was Hudson-Odoi who had the next opportunity, as the Chelsea winger’s free-kick was parried away by Racioppi just after the hour mark.
But the Young Lions continued to struggle to breakdown their opponents, with Mauro Lustrinelli’s side pressing well when England were in possession - barely giving them a second to think when they were on the ball.
And in keeping with the pattern of the game it was Switzerland who had the next chance of note, as Domgjoni had another strike from distance that Ramsdale had to deal with, as the stalemate continued with 15 minutes left on the clock.
The deadlock was broken just minutes later, as Ndoye’s effort from the edge of the box rebounded off his standing foot before looping over Ramsdale into the far corner, leaving the Young Lions with a little more than ten minutes to rescue a draw.
Alas, England struggled to find an opening in the closing stages, leaving them playing catchup from the start in their group, with two remaining games against Portugal and Croatia to come.
England Under-21 (3-4-3): Aaron Ramsdale (Sheffield United), Max Aarons (Norwich City), Ben Godfrey (Everton), Marc Guehi (Swansea City, loan from Chelsea), Lloyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth), Tom Davies (Everton), Oliver Skipp (Norwich City, loan from Tottenham Hotspur), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Emile Smith-Rowe (Arsenal), Dwight McNeil (Burnley), Eddie Nketiah (Arsenal)
Substitutes: Curtis Jones (Liverpool) for Davies 66’, Eberechi Eze (Crystal Palace) for Smith-Rowe 66’, Ryan Sessegnon (Hoffenheim on loan from Tottenham Hotspur) for McNeil 76’, Rhian Brewster (Sheffield United) for Nketiah 76’
Substitutes not used: Japhet Tanganga (Tottenham Hotspur), Josef Bursik (Stoke City), Josh Griffiths (Cheltenham Town on loan from West Bromwich Albion), Noni Madueke (PSV Eindhoven), Todd Cantwell (Norwich City), Conor Gallagher (West Bromwich Albion on loan from Chelsea, Steven Sessegnon (Bristol City on loan from Fulham), Ben Wilmot (Watford).
Switzerland U-21 (4-3-1-2): Anthony Racioppi, Jordan Lotomba, Jan Bamert, Cedric Zesiger, Miro Muheim, Ben Toma, Toni Domgjoni, Alexandre Jankewitz, Dan Ndoye, Jeremy Guillemenot, Andi Zeqiri. \
Substitutes: Kastriot Imeri for Guillemenot 66’, Felix Mambimbi for Ndoye 79’, Kevin Ruegg for Toma 85’
Substitutes not used: Philipp Kohn, Jasper Van Der Werff, Silvan Sidler, Petar Pusic, Timothy Fayulu, Fabian Rieder, Leonidas Stergiou, Simon Sohm, Filip Stojilkovic
Bookings: Bamert 63’, Jankewitz 85’
Goals: Ndoye 78’
Referee: Giorgi Kruashvili (Georgia)