England U21 1-2 Croatia U21: Young Lions lose in final Euro warm-up
England U21 1-2 Croatia U21: Lee Carsley’s side unable to back up stunning France victory as they slump to defeat in final game before Euros
- Carsley used the majority of his squad in England’s final preparation game
- They beat France 4-0 on Saturday but went down disappointingly in the capital
- Morgan Gibbs-White scored England’s goal with a late strike from the spot
In less-than-ideal circumstances, England Under 21s will stew over a defeat until they meet up again in June.
That will be shortly before their European Championship campaign starts and losing against Croatia on Wednesday might focus a few minds after thrashing France at the weekend.
Lee Carsley is looking to make sure there is not another Euros failure on England’s record after an embarrassing group-stage exit two years ago and this is exactly the sort of result, against lower-ranked opposition, they can ill-afford when the real stuff kicks off.
It was a different test to the rousing victory on Saturday. Whereas France went at England, attempting to dominate the game and subsequently leaving gaps, Croatia were intent on sitting in while playing on the break.
In a sense, it presented a valuable case study for two of the group fixtures against Israel and Czech Republic, whom Carsley’s side will be expected to beat without fuss.
England U21s lost their final warm-up game before the European Championships this summer
Lee Carsley’s side were brought back down to earth after a stunning weekend win over France
Morgan Gibbs-White scored England’s goal from the penalty spot late on after winning a penalty
But these sort of encounters offer sterner examinations in patience and use of possession. The Young Lions rushed on the ball too often, and unable to break down a deep back line, before falling behind 11 minutes before half-time. The free-kick, taken by Dinamo Zagreb’s Martin Baturina, was a stunner, curling away into the top left corner.
Croatia had looked dangerous when stretching the hosts, who themselves had struggled to create clear-cut opportunities, despite Cole Palmer’s lively display on the right.
A defensive mistake gave Igor Biscan’s visitors a second eight minutes after half-time. Luke Thomas tried to nick a crossfield ball he would never reach, allowing Matija Frigan to pounce. With a desperate recovery attempt, Thomas then tripped the attacker inside the box. Dion Drena Beljo sent debutant goalkeeper Josh Griffiths the wrong way.
England had one of their own with four minutes left, substitute Morgan Gibbs-White fouled and converting himself.
Martin Baturina opened the scoring, scoring a fine free-kick for his side in the first half
Leicester’s Luke Thomas (right) was at fault for Croatia’s second, giving away a penalty
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