Austria U21 1-2 England U21: Eddie Nketiah continues remarkable scoring run before Ben Godfrey strikes as Young Lions take giant stride towards next year’s European Championship
- England Under-21s notched their seventh straight Euro qualifying win
- Striker Nketiah took his tally to 12 goals for the Young Lions in the first half
- Godfrey added a second before Patrick Schmidt fired home for the hosts
While the sight of Ben Godfrey ultimately sealing this victory filled Aidy Boothroyd with joy, the preceding move spoke far more to England’s progression at Under-21 level.
Already a goal up, Godfrey slid in Callum Hudson-Odoi’s corner at the back post four minutes into the second half. Now six points clear with a game in hand at the qualification table’s summit, only unmitigated disaster will prevent a spot at next year’s European Championship.
All that is fine, much of it expected, but the uninterrupted 18 passes before the second goal – involving nine outfield players and ending with Ryan Sessegnon only thwarted by the goalkeeper’s face when clean through – pointed to a team more incisive when probing than we have previously witnessed.
Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah took his tally to 12 goals for the Young Lions in the first half
England went right, came back in, then left and eventually engineered Sessegnon’s chance with a change of pace in the final third – the sort of patience and precision they preach at St George’s Park. Straight out of the FA handbook, they will be replaying it on a loop for a few weeks.
Despite a late defensive wobble, that must be the takeaway from this. Having a striker in serious form helps too, of course, and Eddie Nketiah is in one of those grooves that all crave, possessing the confidence to not only pick the dawdling Austria captain Dario Maresic’s pocket, but then to gallop goalwards and impishly dink over the goalkeeper on 27 minutes.
That self-assurance inside the box transmits elsewhere, too, and it has been noted during this camp that the current captain is beginning to show promising signs of improved link-up play.
Skipper Ben Godfrey added a second five minutes after the break from close range
He has spoken at length of bulking up in his parents’ makeshift gym and studying how best he can affect games differently, with teammates noting a more robust centre forward.
On nights like this, when the opposition impose themselves, Nketiah’s role becomes even more significant. Austria were smarting from a shock, and frankly bizarre, 5-1 home defeat by Albania last week. Their energy was up but finishing off, with a number of wayward efforts, while England debutant Tariq Lamptey completed a brave block to deny Barnsley’s Patrick Schmidt.
Schmidt did pull one back on the hour; Aaron Ramsdale may feel he could have stopped the effort. England were not always defensively sound but they would not surrender a two-goal cushion.
Austria striker Patrick Schmidt fired home for the hosts on the hour-mark