Slovakia U21 1-2 England U21: England still in it after come-from-behind victory

Last Updated June 19 2017, 22:46Football
Nathan Redmond
Nathan Redmond

England Under-21s survived a major scare to keep their Euro 2017 hopes alive after a 2-1 comeback victory over Slovakia. 

Second-half goals from Alfie Mawson and Nathan Redmond sealed a 2-1 win to move the Young Lions top of Group A. 

But Aidy Boothroyd's side were poor for long spells and Martin Chrien's opener looked to have them on the brink of another early European exit. 

Yet two goals in 11 minutes mean England go into their final group game with hosts Poland - who face Sweden in Monday's late kick-off - on Thursday with their fate in their own hands. 

Boothroyd had already labelled it a must-win game following Friday's 0-0 draw with Sweden but his words looked to have fallen on deaf ears after a desperate first half in Kielce.

Euro 2017 fixtures, results and standings

England adopted the diamond in midfield with John Swift replacing Jacob Murphy and Redmond partnering Tammy Abraham in attack but the switch failed to inspire. 

First England had to deal with Slovakia's roughhousing approach, which brought a booking for Matus Bero after a wild challenge on Nathaniel Chalobah, while Redmond, Swift and Calum Chambers all received similar treatment. 

But there was little serious threat from England despite plenty of possession - similar to the Sweden game - with only Chalobah's long-range effort dribbling wide. 

Apart from the strong-arm tactics Slovakia offered, England looked equipped to deal with their threat but were rocked when they fell behind after 23 minutes. 

Albert Rusnak's corner found Chrien and, with Mason Holgate and Ben Chilwell giving him too much space, the Viktoria Plzen midfielder craned his neck to guide a fine header across Jordan Pickford and into the far corner.

Suddenly England were exposed with a lack of cohesion, communication and cutting edge becoming ever more glaring. 

A limited Slovakia side were allowed to rest in their comfort zone with Holgate, Abraham and skipper James Ward-Prowse struggling. 

The Young Lions played into Slovakia's hands with their pedestrian build-up never testing a side who had not competed in the Euros since 2000 - when they hosted the tournament. 

And Pickford scrambled to turn Jaroslav Mihalik's drive away just before the break with England floundering and needing a huge second half to save themselves.

Thankfully for Boothroyd they found it inside 11 minutes to turn the game around.

Murphy replaced Holgate at the break and made an instant impact as he teed up Mawson for the equaliser just five minutes into the second half. 

The Norwich winger, playing in an unfamiliar right-back role, crossed for the Swansea defender who tapped in from close range after his initial effort was saved. 

It was a response England desperately needed and their drastic improvement continued after 61 minutes when Redmond won it. 

Excellent hold-up play from Abraham allowed Ward-Prowse to spread the play and find Redmond with Slovakia stretched.

The Southampton winger then cut inside Martin Valjent and his angled drive arrowed across Adrian Chovan into the corner. 

From then it was about maintaining the lead following such a rotten first half, which the Young Lions did well, limiting Slovakia to efforts from distance. 

It was still a nervy finish with Slovakia launching balls into the box but England held out. 

And there was more good news for Boothroyd and his side in the late game, where Sweden could only draw 2-2 with Poland, meaning victory for England over the Poles in their final group game will guarantee top spot in Group A and a semi-final place.

Match Reaction

England Under-21 boss Aidy Boothroyd: "I thought if we lost or drew the game we were out. So we had to be bold, keep ourselves in the mix.

"We did that. Now we've put this to bed we've got a really tough game coming up against Poland. We want to progress, we want to do well.

"I thought we deserved our win. We were the best team.

"Nervy? I think that's fair. The extra player in there (midfield) was to make them less jittery and give them more of an option on the pitch really.

"It's all about action. We talk about dealing with the ball and coping with pressure and in the second half we showed that."

Chrien headed in after 23 minutes as England struggled to get going but after replacing Mason Holgate with Jacob Murphy at the break they began to recover. 

England goalscorer Alfie Mawson: "A lot of players were frustrated. I was so frustrated about the goal.

"But Aidy was calm and calmed everyone down. We said we needed to man up and do the right thing.

"Credit to us and we did what we needed to do. We don't take it in a negative way. We are all men about it. We could have easily crumbled at 1-0 down but we stood up and passed it with flying colours."

Slovakia head coach Pavel Hapal: "I would like to thank the fans. It was a stunning atmosphere. It felt like a home game," he said.

"There were two individual errors which resulted in goals. England has a very strong squad but I'm proud of my team because we created great pressure the last 30 minutes.

"I'm not sure how often you see England trying to delay the game, which was the case here. 

"It's wide open now. Even Poland can still qualify." 

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