England U21 v Scotland U21: Boothroyd's youngsters show the senior team how to do it

Martin Hardy
The Independent
Tammy Abraham: Reuters
Tammy Abraham: Reuters

There was applause, there was entertainment, there were chances, goals and a crowd in excess of 20,000 left the Riverside Stadium with smiles.

It did not feel like England; from origami to something more out of the ordinary, certainly in the exquisite strike of Josh Onomah. The nation’s Under-21s at least threw off some of the shackles that seem to so stifle their big brothers.

Aidy Boothroyd’s side were not flattered by the final scoreline, far from it. Victory should have been greater. Ryan Fulton excelled in a Scotland goal that lived a charmed life.

Tammy Abraham struck a post and had a shot cleared off the line before he scored from a dubious penalty.

And when Scott Gemmill’s side grabbed an unexpected lifeline in the 78th minute through Chris Cadden, the clinical nature of England meant it was snuffed out within 60 seconds, Dominic Solanke striking a third.

That put England top of Group 4 in their European Under-21 Championship qualifier. They will take some budging, five of the starting eleven having own the World Cup at Under-20 level in the summer.

The gulf in the first-half between the teams had been considerable. No need for paper planes to occupy the interests of a half full football stadium. Instead, England flowed and continually created the chances that Scotland seemed powerless to stop.

It was one-nil at the interval and it should really have been more. The woodwork and frantic defending kept the gap so narrow, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop the opening goal, which came with just 14 minutes on the clock.

A right wing corner looked cleared of danger by the head of Scott McKenna, when it fell to the lurking Onomah, around 30 yards from goal.

The Tottenham midfielder, on loan at Aston Villa, then chested the ball down, let it bounce once and struck the perfect shot, looping the ball over the head and outstretched left hand of Ryan Fulton into the Scottish goal. Onomah looked delighted, and he had every right to be, it was an excellent strike. It also cemented early control, and then the chances started to come.

Four minutes later Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin fired over an in-swinging cross from the left and Tammy Abraham got a touch to the ball and it clipped the near post of Fulton’s goal. Demarai Gray then shot narrowly wide of the same post. In the 27th minute, Dominic Thomas cut in for Scotland and fired a shot that was comfortably saved by Angus Gunn.

England went looking for a second and it almost came in the 33rd minute when Dael Fry headed the ball into the path of Abraham, on the edge of the Scotland six yard box, his first time struck shot was goal bound before being blocked by Liam Smith. It was desperate stuff for the Scots.

Fulton did well to deny a rising drive from Lewis Cook and on the stroke of half-time Solanke misjudged his header from a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick. It felt a second was on its was. Two minutes into the second half it almost came when Onomah rounded off a flowing move by shooting over the crossbar.

A further two minutes on, and England had doubled their lead. A fine run by Kyle Walker-Peters and ended with Abraham falling over, what looked like his own feet, but Spanish referee Juan Martinez adjudged that John Souttar had felled the Swansea forward.

Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with team mates (PA)
Tammy Abraham celebrates scoring his side's second goal of the game with team mates (PA)

From 12 yards, Abraham himself very calmly added number two. Number three almost arrived shortly after when Calvert-Lewin’s shot was tipped away by Fulton but there was a brief scare for Boothroyd’s men in the 78th minute. A cross from Lewis Morgan was missed by Joe Gomez, substitute Oliver McBurnie squared and Chris Cadden stabbed home from close ranger.

Scotland had barely regrouped before the game was once more taken from their grasp, There would be no dramatic late comeback, Onomah slipped a lovely ball through to Abraham to beat the Scottish offside trap, the forward, with just Fulton to beat, selflessly squared to Solanke and the Liverpool forward slotted in the third.

The Scottish keeper excelled at the death, resting superbly to deny Gomez, England’s captain for the night, the chance to make amends for his earlier slip, with a fingertip stop.

England (4-2-3-1): Gunn; Alexander-Arnold, Fry, Gomez, Walker-Peters; Cook, Onomah; Gray (Kenny 70), Solanke (Lookman 83), Calvert-Lewin; Abraham (Harrison 87).

Scotland (4-2-3-1): Fulton; Smith; Souttar, McKenna, Taylor; Campbell, Mallan (Docherty 82); Cadden, Thomas (Williamson 67), Morgan; Burke (McBurnie 46).

Ref: Juan Martinez

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