England bow out of Under-21 Euros with more sloppy defending vs Croatia

Evening Standard

England Under-21s concluded their participation in the Under-21 European Championships without a victory after a thrilling 3-3 draw with Croatia on Monday.

Aidy Boothroyd's side led three times in the match but blew their lead with defensive mistakes costing them victory again in San Marino after narrow defeats to France and Romania.

Reiss Nelson, James Maddison and a stunning strike from Jonjoe Kenny had got the Young Lions in front, but strikes from Josip Brekalo either side of a goal from former Everton midfielder Nikola Vlasic denied them victory.

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The Young Lions took an 11th-minute lead after Nelson won a penalty following a challenge from Branimir Kalaica and sent Ivo Grbic the wrong way from the spot.

Despite their dominance, England were pegged back six minutes before the break. Brekalo cut in from the left and, with Kenny backpedalling, curled a fine shot into the top corner from 12 yards.

Despair: It was a tournament to forget for Aidy Boothroyd and his England players. (PA)
Despair: It was a tournament to forget for Aidy Boothroyd and his England players. (PA)

England went into the break level but the parity only lasted for three minutes when Maddison restored the Under-21s' lead, firing into the roof of the net when Nelson's cross was only half cleared.

Croatia were level again in the 62nd minute when Vlasic equalised with a clever finish into the corner, before being taken off immediately after with an injury.

It looked as if England had found a winner when Kenny drilled in from all of 25 yards, but they were pegged back for a third time.

Brekalo got his second eight minutes from time, capitalising on some questionable defending from the Young Lions before slotting beyond Dean Henderson.

It means Boothroyd's side finish third in the group having conceded nine goals in their three group matches and finish the tournament without a victory.

Additional reporting from the Press Association.

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