England Under 21s 2-0 Israel Under 21s: Anthony Gordon and Emile Smith Rowe score as Lee Carsley’s side top group and progress to quarter-finals of European Championship
- England Under-21s reached the quarter-finals of the Euros after beating Israel
- Anthony Gordon put England ahead with a superb header in the 15th minute
- Emile Smith Rowe doubled their lead with a fine goal as they topped their group
They’d all gone inside, England. AirPods on, down the tunnel. All but one of them. A straggler still out on the grass.
Anthony Gordon, the Under 21s’ false nine, stood alone in one box just staring at goal. For a couple of minutes, just watching it unmoved. A visualisation technique that paid off, unless he had actually felt particularly inclined to gaze at the Tskhrajvari peaks in the distance. They are picturesque, in fairness.
Gordon is not a natural here but is doing an invaluable job for Lee Carsley. His 16th-minute header set England on their way to securing qualification from Group C, with the chance of sending Germany home when they meet in midweek, and did so in front of Gareth Southgate.
Southgate arrived in Georgia late on Saturday night, boarding the team bus to this victory over a spirited Israel, and there had been a school of thought around the FA that Gordon was one in with a chance of sneaking into last winter’s World Cup squad.
He stayed here though, now a focal point in a team of fluidity and movement, packed with seven midfielders and an insistence on killing opposition with ingenuity masquerading as simplicity. Even if England do not win another game at this tournament, performances will have opened Southgate’s eyes to the depth of talent beneath the seniors and how they can knit together. The last few days have been worthwhile for that above all else.
England Under 21 beat Israel 2-0 to reach the quarter-finals of the European Championship
Emile Smith Rowe (left) and Anthony Gordon score as the Young Lions topped their group
Nottingham Forest’s Morgan Gibbs-White produced another impressive performance
Naturally they are here to win it, to make sure people are talking about this group for years to come. The added bonus with a second win was England have now avoided a quarter-final over in Tbilisi, a five-hour train away from their base on the west coast. The last-eight will be back here in Kutaisi, half the journey.
Mission accomplished without conceding and looking tidy going forward. Gordon’s downward header was perfectly timed, stealing a march on his marker from a clipped Morgan Gibbs-White cross on the byline. Gibbs-White had progressed to that position methodically in a way that showcased how Carsley’s side play at their own pace.
‘I still think there’s a lot more to come from this team,’ Carsley said. ‘They’ve got other levels they can go to. We have to be better. I’ve been impressed with Anthony, we’re trying to get him into unorthodox positions.’
Rarely has an England team dominated a game with pure football to quite this degree and in spells it really was quite something to watch. An earlier disallowed goal, Emile Smith Rowe backheeling while offside, came after a breath-taking move kickstarted by Angel Gomes, a flurry of one-touch passes through the lines and around Israel, in a way that we have just not seen that often.
England (4-2-3-1): Trafford 7; Garner 7, Harwood-Bellis 7.5, Colwill 8, Johnson 7; Gomes 8.5 (Skipp 70, 6), Jones 8; Madueke 7 (Palmer 61, 6), Gibbs-White 9 (Ramsey 79), Smith Rowe 8 (Elliott 70, 6.5); Gordon 8 (Archer 61)
Subs not used: Griffiths, Rushworth, Thomas, Branthwaite, Cresswell.
Manager: Lee Carsley 8
Goals: Gordon 15, Smith Rowe 68
Booked: Johnson, Jones
Israel: Peretz, Jaber, Lemkin, Cohen, Revivo, Layous (Hofmeister 59), Khalaili (Hajaj 46), Gandelman, Azulay (Toklomati Giorno 59), Gloukh, Turgeman (Bilu 77)
Subs not used: Abu Rumi, Blorian, Bar, Morgan, Prada, Zarfati
Manager: Guy Luzon
Referee: Rade Obrenovic 5
Chelsea’s Noni Madueke put in another impressive display with his pace and trickery in attack
Lee Carsley’s side have made it through to the quarter-finals with two successive victories
One criticism would be that after the opener, England eased up. Comfortable with it, but a little slower. Their prerogative with a lead, of course, although Israel – coached by former Charlton manager Guy Luzon – saw an Ethane Azoulay free-kick nicely saved by James Trafford.
Noni Madueke should have squared for Gordon shortly after the restart, blazing wide, while Gibbs-White wanted a penalty for an apparent trip. With more pace to them after the break, much like against Czech Republic, Smith Rowe finally had his goal 22 minutes from time, fizzing into the corner from just outside the area. The chance was manufactured via a one-two with Gibbs-White, who ran the show all night, with Gomes not far behind.
‘I’ve followed Angel for years but he didn’t get in the first two or three of my squads,’ Carsley added. ‘He’s going to have a great career, he really is. He deserves all the luck and success. He’s studious, he cares about football.’