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England beat Croatia in U21 play-off first leg


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England U2

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Saido Berahino scored a late penalty as England Under-21s secured a valuable first-leg advantage in their Euro 2015 play-off against Croatia at Molineux.

Gareth Southgate's side fell behind when Marko Livaja headed home an early opener following a corner.

England pressed and Luke Shaw hit the post, before Harry Kane nodded in an equaliser from Berahino's cross.

With time running out, West Brom striker Berahino was fouled in the area and converted the winning penalty.

The second leg will be played in Croatia on Tuesday.

England's slender advantage will give them hope of progressing to a fifth European Championship finals in a row, especially after their impressive qualifying form.

Southgate's side scored 31 goals as they finished top of their qualifying group, winning nine of their 10 games, but that attacking prowess was lacking in the early stages of Friday's game.

Berahino, joint top scorer in the group stage with nine goals in eight games, spurned the hosts' first chance when he was put through by Derby midfielder Will Hughes's smart ball, scooping his shot high and wide.

Euro 2015

The 2015 European Under-21 Championship finals take place in Czech Republic from 17-30 June

The six other play-off games are Slovakia v Italy, France v Sweden, Denmark v Iceland, Netherlands v Portugal, Ukraine v Germany and Serbia v Spain.

The group-stage draw for the finals is in Prague on 6 November

Spain are the holders

England looked largely comfortable, but poor defending allowed Croatia to take the lead against the run of play.

A corner was flicked on by Niko Datkovic towards the far post, where Livaja nodded in.

To England's credit, they responded well as Manchester United full-back Shaw struck the inside of a post before Norwich midfielder Nathan Redmond had a powerful 25-yard drive tipped over by Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic.

Croatia's defence was well organised and they also looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with the lively Ante Coric bending a shot just over the bar following a swift break.

England, though, did not get frustrated and their patience was rewarded before the hour mark when Berahino delivered a low cross into the area and Kane stooped in to glance home a close-range header.

From then on, Croatia seemed content to try and close out the game and leave the West Midlands with the scores level.

However, the lively Berahino broke at pace against a tiring defence, raced into the area and was fouled by the onrushing Livakovic, who then failed to keep out the striker's spot-kick.

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England U21s, who fell behind after 13 minutes against Croatia, conceded just two goals in 10 games during qualifying

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Gareth Southgate's side finished top of their Euro 2015 qualifying group, with nine wins from 10 games

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Manchester United full-back Luke Shaw hit the post for England U21s

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Harry Kane has scored seven goals in his past five games for England U21s

LINEUP, BOOKINGS (5) & SUBSTITUTIONS (5)
England U21
  • 01 Butland
  • 02 Keane¬†(Dier - 45'¬†Booked¬†)
  • 06 Moore¬†Booked
  • 05 Gibson
  • 03 Shaw
  • 04 Hughes¬†(Ince - 56' )
  • 08 Forster-Caskey
  • 10 Carroll
  • 11 Redmond
  • 09 Kane
  • 07 Berahino
Substitutes
  • 12 Garbutt
  • 13 Bond
  • 14 Dier
  • 15 Lascelles
  • 16 Baker
  • 17 Ince
  • 18 Bamford
Croatia U21
  • 12 Livakovic
  • 02 Zuparic¬†Booked
  • 05 Datkovic
  • 06 Mitrovic
  • 03 Milic¬†(Milos - 91' )
  • 04 Bradaric
  • 08 Pavicic¬†Booked
  • 07 Pjaca
  • 18 Coric¬†(Pasalic - 63'¬†Booked¬†)
  • 11 Rebic
  • 14 Livaja¬†(Bagaric - 70' )
Substitutes
  • 01 Delac
  • 09 Perica
  • 10 Pasalic
  • 13 Milos
  • 16 Caktas
  • 17 Bagaric
  • 19 Brucic
Ref: Javier Estrada Fernández
MATCH STATS
Possession30%70%90minsEngland U21Croatia U21
Shots
208
On target
61
Corners
126
Fouls
917
 

 

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