Chelsea three help young England to vital win

England Under-21s, with three Chelsea players on board, were victorious in their second game at the European Under-21 Championships, significantly boosting their chances of making the semi-finals.

The young England side recovered from a poor first-half showing and a half-time deficit to beat Slovakia 2-1, the goals coming from Swansea’s Alfie Mawson and Southampton’s Nathan Redmond.

As in the first game which was a goalless stalemate against Sweden, Nathaniel Chalobah and Lewis Baker played in midfield although the latter in a slightly deeper role in a reshape England formation. Abraham was again asked to battle away up front on his own and although isolated at times against a physical defence, the 19-year-old acquitted himself well.

Overall for Aidy Boothroyd’s side, the opening 45 minutes lacked penetration against opponents who were group leaders after the first game, and were able to defend in numbers once they went ahead midway through the half, England conceding from a near-post corner.

Baker was the first to attempt to restore parity, hitting a left-foot shot on the run which did not clear the bar by a great deal, but it was Jordan Pickford who was the busier of the two keepers in the remainder of the half. He saved two long-range Slovak shots.

In stoppage time before the interval, a skilful turn by Abraham won a free-kick which James Ward-Prowse took and was on-target but it was pushed over.

At the start of the second half, Abraham and former Chelsea player John Swift moved the ball on well to Redmond whose shot was saved, but the corner eventually led to the equaliser when Mawson scored from close range.  

The momentum was briefly with England and Baker tried to find Abraham in front of the target but the pass was cut out.

Slovakia came back into the game but then conceded a second goal on the hour, Redmond finishing emphatically as England broke in numbers off Abraham’s strong hold-up play.

The centre-forward was withdrawn for the closing minutes during which Slovakia forced England to do plenty of defending but could not break through.

It is now all to play for in the final group game which is against host nation Poland on Thursday evening. The group winners go straight into the semi-finals with the best of the three runners-up joining them.