Slovakia U21 1 England U21 2: Aidy Boothroyd's youngsters rally to keep semi-final hopes alive

Jason Burt
The Telegraph
Nathan Redmond scored the deciding goal in Poland - 2017 The FA
Nathan Redmond scored the deciding goal in Poland - 2017 The FA

Just as it appeared that England were embarrassingly crashing out of another Under-21s Euro finals they saved themselves with a stirring second-half comeback to defeat Group A leaders Slovakia and offer a chance of reaching the semi-finals. They can play pressure football after all, it seems.

England’s history in this competition has been miserable – and this was only their second win in 11 games in the finals since 2009 – but it was the kind of turnaround that can lead to so much more. It felt like a big moment. A big 45 minutes. England, traditionally, do not do must-win football, knock-out football already, in effect, but in a game they had to collect all three points from to keep their hopes alive they did just that with second-half goals from Alfie Mawson and Nathan Redmond in the sapping Polish heat.

They now face Poland in their final group match here again on Thursday evening needing to probably win that game also.

In a woeful first-half for them England struggled, nerves preyed and they fell behind mid-way through. From an Albert Rusnak corner, Martin Chrien was allowed to run free to the near corner of the six-yard area, with Mason Holgate and Ben Chilwell slow to react, and angled his header back across Jordan Pickford and high into the net. The raucous 3,000 - surely there were more – Slovakian fans inside this stadium erupted and England had it all to do. They had to win. They also had to keep their heads and captain James Ward-Prowse was cautioned as he flew into a tackle, studs up.

There had been a change of shape from the goalless draw against Sweden with Redmond pushed further forward to support Tammy Abraham and a change in the team also with Jacob Murphy left out and Reading’s John Swift included but it was Slovakia playing by far the more confident, cogent football although eventually they began to sit deep.

<span>England formation against Slovakia</span>
England formation against Slovakia

England had to break them down but almost fell further behind when a 25-yard shot from Jaroslav Mihalik took a deflection and bounced up and almost deceived Pickford who did well to adjust and push it away as did, at the other end, Slovakian goalkeeper Adrian Chovan as he tipped over a Ward-Prowse free-kick.

Coach Aidy Boothroyd had to do something and withdrew Holgate, who had again struggled, at half-time with Murphy pushed in at right-back. Presumably the idea was to finally get some improved crosses in. It worked with an opportunity created by Swift for Redmond who cut back inside, onto his right foot, and forced another fine parry by Chovan. From the corner the ball was sent back in by Murphy with Chovan pushing out Mawson’s first effort but the central defender reacted quickly to force it over the line.

<span>Alfie Mawson scored his team's opening goal</span> <span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>
Alfie Mawson scored his team's opening goal Credit: GETTY IMAGES

England were transformed and went ahead when Ward-Prowse smartly switched the play out to the left to pick out the unmarked Redmond who sprinted into the area and angled a powerful shot across Chovan and into the net. It had been some turnaround.

England had some fortune with their equalising goal and were then perhaps lucky also not to concede a penalty as Murphy appeared to block a cross with his arm inside the area. Lithuanian referee Gediminas Mazeika waved away the appeals.

Slovakia continued to push, England failing to make the most of their breakaways, but the comeback had been completed.



Thoroughly unimpressive by England there who are dead lucky to have won and to still be in the tournament. They were much better in the second half but even then...



90 mins +4

Baker has options to pass form a counter-attack but wisely decides to try and keep the ball in the corner then handballs as he is muscled off it. The keeper launches it forward, Chilwell goes down under a foul... and that's it.


90 mins +2

Woodrow gets the ball on the right, brings it forward and tries to go past his man but isn't quite quick or strong enough and gives possession away. 

Murphy is fouled near the corner flag but doesn't get the free-kick for some reason and then England just hoof the ball back to that corner flag area straight after. Woodrow wins a corner.


90 mins

Abraham is coming off now for Cauley Woodrow, who despite his name is not a fictional war hero, but is actually a footballer for Fulham. Slovakia are looking dangerous here and England are panicking, passing the ball to nobody, launching it nowhere...


88 mins

Murphy is booked for pulling a forward to the ground and Slovakia have a free-kick just wide left of the England box. Ooooohhhh the tension is building. At least this is good practise for when these players play in an actual tournament - they've already got the nervous punting ball away thing nailed down.

Slovakia win a corner from their free-kick. But that comes to nothing. Pickford hoofs it up the park.


85 mins

Slovakia have England pinned back and are getting the ball into the box, forcing scurried clearances and panicked defending. The tactic of throwing the ball up the other end of the pitch is a really odd one usually reserved for Sunday league games but there must be some sort of method behind the madness because England are winning. 

Every time. HOOF. Slovakia attack, England cling on... win it back. HOOF! Slovakia attack, England have to survive an attack... win it back. HOOF!


82 mins

England are working hard to deny Slovakia space but when they win the ball back they're punting it forward towards Redmond and Abraham and hoping something comes out of it. It just means that Slovakia keep coming at them again and again and that England have to run even more to win the ball back. If I know England games then there's an inevitable equaliser coming any minute now.


79 mins

Swift is substituted for Demarai Gray.


76 mins

England are trying to halt the momentum of Slovakia's waves of attack at the moment and seem happy to sit back and let them control possession. 

Redmond comes forward, spots Abraham making a run off the last man and chips a ball forward to him. He goes down in a heap on the floor as though he's been elbowed. The replay shows that he has taken a wee hit to the cheek with an elbow but not enough - probably - to send him rolling around on the floor. Slovakia players are furious with him.


73 mins

Another England player to have had a good game here this evening is Nathaniel Chalobah, who has been cleaning up loose balls in front of his centre-backs all match long. John Swift has been a little trigger happy with his shooting and nothing's really come off for him yet, I'd expect to see an England substitution before too long and he might be the man to go. 

Final change for Slovakia: Haraslin on, Mihalik off.


70 mins

What a difference Murphy has made too. Partly because Holgate was absolutely horse, but also because he's getting forward, playing passes, keeping the ball and generally doing things a right-back is supposed to. Holgate might not get back in the team after today's performance.

England are now playing long-balls on the counter-attack and for now it's working. Redmond runs into the channel, takes it down and England move forward as a unit. This is the Boothroyd way of playing football. When it works he looks like a genius but as many lower league managers have discovered, it's not hard to suss out and beat.


67 mins

Slovakia changes. Zrelak off, Safranko on and Chrien (the goalscorer) off, Benes on.

I'm about 90 per cent sure Boothroyd used 'Aggressive' with 'Come on lads, where's the passion? Do you even want to win this match?' at half time.


65 mins

How will Slovakia respond to this one now? They're getting more men forward than they did in the first half but have been cut open twice and are behind. 

<span>Credit: PA </span>
Credit: PA

 Murphy is pulled to the floor by Mazan and the left-back is booked for it. Slovakia want a penalty as the ball comes off a defender in the area but it would have been harsh.



  Slovakia 1 (Chrien 23') - 2 (Mawson 50', Redmond 61') England

What a ball by Ward-Prowse! Abraham is brilliant, holding the ball up, seeing off two challenges and letting the team get level with him, but Ward-Prowse sees the three England players to have broken forward down the left and swings a wonderful ball over to them. Redmond controls, dribbles, cuts inside and fires a powerful drive into the top corner.


59 mins

It takes three England defenders to stop Bero, who twists and turns his way past nearly all of them before barging through the back of Alfie Mawson.


56 mins

Slovakia respond to conceding by breaking out of their defensive shell and are attacking England with sharp movement and quick passes. Pickford dives to his left to stop a shot which flies past him and hits the advertising boards next to the goal from one move.


53 mins

England could be 2-1 up! Redmond is finding space now and is drifting from right to left. He nips down the left and crosses into the box... Abraham is so close to being handed a tap-in but the defender gets in front and deals with it. 

England are working a lot harder in this half, playing with more of a desire and some much needed aggression. 



mawson goal
mawson goal

  Slovakia 1 (Chrien 23') - 1 (Mawson 50') England

It's not great but they all count. Redmond is wide, draws defenders out towards him and passes back to Murphy, who swings a dangerous cross into the box. Mawson attacks it, the keeper saves, and he's left with a tap-in to score England's first of the tournament. It's physical, route one football but it's worked.


50 mins

Great hit by Redmond! England finally create something in the final third. Redmond cuts back onto his right foot as he finds space in the box but the keeper turns it behind for a corner and then flaps at the next. England recyle the ball... the cross is going into the middle...


48 mins

<span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>

It turns out that actually nothing has changed. Murphy has just gone to right-back. And the same exact things are happening in this half as did in the first. 



We're back!


Half time changes

Mason Holgate has gone off, and in his place is Jacob Murphy. England might have gone to three at the back, which is probably unnecessary. They haven't needed to defend at all during the game but this will at least give the full-backs more license to get forward.


Stuart Pearce's tactical advice

"Playing with two strikers hasn't shown me anything we didn't see against Sweden. I'd probably stick Redmond one side, Demarai Gray the other and one holding player with two advanced midfielders to give them support."

I'm no football coach but that is also exactly what I'd do. The full-backs can tuck in next to the holding midfield player and that would make it much easier, and quicker, for England to regain possession when Slovakia hoof it away. At the moment it's easy to defend the wide areas because the full-backs have to run into those spaces.


Another disastrous England tournament?



England's set up

<span>England U21 4-1-2-1-2</span>
England U21 4-1-2-1-2

This is what England look like. The biggest weakness is on the right - Holgate has been nervous and unreliable, losing the ball far too many times, making poor crosses and worse decisions. He's started playing the ball short to teammates instead of trying things himself and that's hurting the shape.

The midfielders and forwards are swapping positions a fair bit, with the exception of Chalobah who is the anchor between the centre-backs and midfield. Chilwell has been good but has absolutely no help when going forward and is being given stupid passes that make him run straight into opposition defenders.

Swift's first touch has let him down on a few occasions, Abraham can't get into the game and Slovakia are kicking Redmond when he gets the ball. It's just really, really average from England.  



Slovakia seem to be technically superior but worse for England, are far better organised and now Boothroyd needs to figure out how to inspire his youngsters into getting anything out of this match. 


45 mins +1

Good hit by Ward-Prowse, who forces Chovan into make the save. The corner is easily headed away and that's half time.


45 mins

Baker is tackled in the final third as he looks to create something. There's no movement ahead of him though - everyone is static and looking for the ball to feet. It won't work. Holgate tries to put the ball in the box, cleared, Chalobah tries to force a shot and wins a throw. Holgate throws it short to Chalobah, who crosses in from deep and it's cleared again.

Abraham turns his man 30 yards from goal and wins a free-kick which Ward-Prowse could have a ping at.


43 mins

<span>Credit: GETTY IMAGES </span>

Look who's here. He won't be impressed so far. Pickford has just had to dive to his right to stop Slovakia scoring a second.

Boothroyd has the shape all wrong here - the full-backs are causing absolutely no problems and the centre of the pitch is too congested. Slovakia will play this counter-attack all game long. 


41 mins

Once again, Abraham is being left completely isolated up front. England aren't good enough to control the pitch in Slovakia's half and so they just keep passing it about until they give it away and then have to work hard to recover. 

England don't have any cutting edge at all here and it's a real problem. As soon as they get near the back five they lose control of passes and run out of options, Slovakia just keep booting the ball away. And repeat.


38 mins

England are still looking for this equaliser, Slovakia are defending their half with a 5-4-1, everyone back behind the ball. There's no space at all, the ball is being moved from side to side and then Holgate gives the ball away again. Holgate tries to win it back, the defender Mazan tries to block him and just waits for the foul... which never comes... and then inevitably the referee blows for a foul. That is pathetic refereeing. Awful. I cannot stand when referees blow for fouls which haven't even happened yet and he just thinks might be. Dreadful. So annoyed. Send help.


35 mins

Slovakia are not struggling to stop England getting forward, though Boothroyd's side is playing some nice football. Swift tries a speculative effort from distance but puts it high and wide.


31 mins

England have 57 per cent of possession apparently. There just looks to be a lack of creativity and thought in the final third - and a lack of control too. They're rushing play when getting forward and Slovakia are denying space - all the width is coming from the full-backs who are having to do a heap of work at the moment.


28 mins

Ward-Prowse sees a 50/50 challenge and sprints as fast as he can towards it, launching into the slide tackle with studs showing. Graeme Souness would be turning in his grave at the referee's decision to show the yellow card. And it is harsh... but Ward-Prowse doesn't need to go in so aggressively to that one.


25 mins

Poor Mason Holgate looks too nervous for this. He's making little mistakes, totally lost his man there and isn't carrying himself confidently at all.

Lewis Baker goes into default England mode and shoots from 25 yards, putting the shot high and wide. Composure, boys! Keep it cool.



slovakia opening goal
slovakia opening goal

Slovakia 1 (Chrien 23') - 0 England

They've taken the lead! A great header, a superb cross and a clever run to the corner of the six yard box to evade Mason Holgate, who has had a shocker so far.


21 mins

Ward-Prowse is leading by example here, always showing for the ball, always demanding it and then looking for a forward pass, waving at players higher up the pitch to make runs into space. A clever pass between the lines is wasted as Baker fails to control with his first touch and the chance is gone. 


18 mins

That's such a waste by Holgate. Slovakia attack well but are shut out on the edge of England's box, the counter-attack is quick and Redmond picks a great forward pass to Ward-Prowse, who holds and waits for Holgate's run on the right. The full-back gets into the final third and hits an utterly useless cross to nobody. Redmond is furious at his lack of composure.


15 mins

Valjent goes through the back of Redmond, painfully standing on the back of his ankle and sending him to the floor in a bit of pain. No booking this time, though it should have been. Martin Tyler has suggested that this is a compliment - Slovakia are obviously worried about the threat he poses. 


13 mins

Bero is claiming he's been elbowed by Chalobah when nothing of the sort has gone on, and moans about being injured on the floor for a good 45 seconds before he realises nobody cares. Then he gets his own back by fouling Chalobah and is booked.


11 mins

This is better from England now. They keep the passing short and sharp in the centre of the pitch and the whole team can come forward. The problem now is that Slovakia have dropped into their defensive shape and are being given time to do so, meaning there is no space whatsoever to play in and so inevitably, someone just shoots. Chalobah fires wide from 25 yards instead of recycling the ball and looking for a better opportunity.


8 mins

Hmmm. There's a lot of long ball football going on here by England. They try to pass out from the back but as soon as it reaches midfield the ball is being pumped over the top for one of the forwards to chase - the midfield can't get control of possession if they're never being passed to.



6 mins

England are slowing the play down in their own half and firing quick passes forward when they get into the final third. Slovakia running out of ideas with forward passes and one player just hoofs a hopeful volley way in the air, gifting possession back. It's a high press by Slovakia though and England's back line has to be aware of what's going on. Redmond's first touch isn't good enough to control a long ball forward down the right wing but England win the throw... and Holgate chips a cross straight to the goalkeeper.


3 mins

Chambers is straight in amongst it, going over the top of Zrelak and landing from a height of about six feet flat on to his body. Ow. 

England's midfield diamond means they have a player between the lines of midfield and defence and midfield and attack - twice now Slovakia have run out of options in their build up play from the back.



Here we go! Both sets of fans are in high spirits and fine voice. Let's hope the football is also ace. Slovakia get us started.


It's very hot in Poland

The ground is nice and full, the sun is shining, the players are about to make their way out onto the pitch. Ward-Prowse is England captain, Adam Zrelak for Slovakia.


Someone needs to tell Chris Kirkland to cheer up

chris kirkland
chris kirkland

He's sat there like he hates the presenter, really odd body language. Maybe his chair doesn't turn, I don't know, but zermagerd he's bumming me out - and that's while talking about something he clearly cares about. Kirkland goes on about how impressed he is with Jordan Pickford and that the now-Everton goalkeeper is the best he's worked with, displaying the enthusiasm of a man who has just learned the return on his ISA is 1.2 per cent and not the 1.35 he was quoted earlier. "I want to speak to a manager," he says in the Apple Store, unhappy that he isn't being given a new free phone because he's dropped his.


Aidy Boothroyd's waistcoat

aidy boothroyd
aidy boothroyd

"Against these we might need an extra man in midfield, so we want to control the midfield and keep the ball. They're unchanged so we know what they're going to be. I think Redmond alongside Abraham should help both get involved.

"We've got to win it."


Stuart Pearce thinks England need to try and wing

Stuart Pearce and Chris Kirkland are the studio guests to talk about this one. Pearce has some wonderful insight for us too:

"The opening game nerves are out the way, that's always something. I think we've got to go out and win the game today."

I'm glad he's here because without that input, I think we'd all have thought England shouldn't try and win the game.


Starting lineups


Chovan; Mazan, Ninaj, Skriniar, Valijent; Chrien, Lobotka, Mhalik, Bero, Rusnak; Safranko


Pickford; Chilwell, Mawson, Chambers, Holgate; Ward-Prowse, Chalobah, Baker, Swift; Redmond, Abraham




Hi everyone! Welcome to our liveblog. I'll be your host for the next few hours as England U21s take on Slovakia U21s. They haven't played each other since 2003, when Phil Jagielka scored in a 2-0 win. That's Phil "really old now" Jagielka. 

What can we expect today? England have a great squad full of Premier League hopefuls but Slovakia have really impressed in qualifying for this tournament. It genuinely could go either way. Teams will be in soon.



What is it?

It's England vs Slovakia in the 2017 European Under-21 Championship.

This is England's second match of the tournament, after they drew 0-0 with Sweden in their opening match on Friday.

When is it?

Monday 19 June.

What time is kick off?

5pm UK time. Or 6pm local time, if you're in Kielce in Poland, where the game is taking place.

Where can I watch it?

Sky Sports 1 will be showing live coverage of the game.

We will also have live updates for you on this page, with team news from 4pm.

What is the team news?

England have no injury worries but changes are expected after a fairly limp display last time out.

Will Hughes and Demarai Gray could be in contention for a starting spot.

European Under 21 Championship: 20 young stars who could shine in Poland
European Under 21 Championship: 20 young stars who could shine in Poland

What are they saying?

England manager Aidy Boothroyd on senior team manager Gareth Southgate and technical director Dan Ashworth's presence at the tournament:

“It’s really helpful having them here. It’s great that Gareth, Steve and Dan are here because it shows the players there is a pathway for them. And if the senior manager can take time out of his busy schedule to come to watch us then it gives the players a boost.

<span>Aidy Boothroyd is aware of the task facing his side</span> <span>Credit: PA </span>
Aidy Boothroyd is aware of the task facing his side Credit: PA

"Gareth’s been very positive. We are very close anyway. It’s great if I have any questions about players Gareth can be my sounding board because he knows them all so well and was with them in Toulon.”

And on the task ahead:

“It’s knockout football now without a doubt. We’ve got to win and win the next one after that. But we have to beat the Slovakians first. They have had a brilliant start. They’re a very good team and I’ve been really impressed with them.”

What happens to U20 World Cup winners?
What happens to U20 World Cup winners?

What are the odds?

Slovakia win - 9/2 Draw - 3/1 England win - 4/6

What's our prediction?

England to win 2-0. 

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