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U-21: England Cruise Into Semi-Finals

KIELCE, POLAND - JUNE 22: James Ward-Prowse of England and Demarai Gray of England show appreciation to the fans after the UEFA European Under-21 Championship Group A match between England and Poland at Kielce Stadium on June 22, 2017 in Kielce, Poland. (Photo by Stephen Pond - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)
U-21: England Cruise Into Semi-Finals

Demarai Gray inspired England to a comfortable 3-0 victory against Poland that secured their spot as group winners in the European U21 Championship play-offs.

It proved a master-stroke by Three Lions boss Aidy Boothroyd who recalled Gray at the expense of Tammy Abraham.

The Leicester youngster scored the first and set up the second as England sent hosts Poland crashing out of the tournament.

Substitute Abraham helped wrap up a highly-impressive win when he won a penalty in the 81st minute – Lewis Baker grabbed the ball and hammered home from the spot.

Jan Bednarek was shown a second yellow and subsequent red for the foul, to complete a miserable night for the men in red.

But the win came with injury worries for England. Nathaniel Chalobah came off in the 39th minute with a groin injury, to be replaced by Will Hughes, and Nathan Redmond was replaced at the break by Jacob Murphy.

 

England made the perfect start to the Group A clash at the Kielce Stadium, and it had a very Leicester connection to it.

Ben Chilwell raced down the left and squared in to his Foxes team-mate Demarai Gray.

He made good connection with an effort that took a deflection to loop over Poland keeper Jakub Wrabel and into the goal.

 

Only six minutes in, and his inclusion in the team at the expense of Tammy Abraham has already been justified.

England continued to dominate the first half, and only fine saves from Wrabel denied Nathaniel Chalobah and Alfie Mawson extending the Three Lions’ lead.

As Poland came out for the first half all-guns blazing, the fear was that England might regret not taking their chances.

 

But that fear was put to bed in the 69th minute – and that man again Gray was involved.

It was the perfect counter as England snatched possession in their own half, Gray sprinted down the left, and Poland were in grave danger.

He squared to Jacob Murphy in the box who had the simplest of chances to tap the ball over the line for 2-0.

It was another feather in the cap of Aidy Boothroyd, who had introduced the Norwich man to the game at half-time, replacing Nathan Redmond.

And again, it was all credit to the manager for the third that totally killed off any hopes Poland had.

Tammy Abraham, who had been brought on for James Ward-Prowse, tricked his way into the area, only to be brought down by Jan Bednarek.

The Polish defender was shown a second yellow and sent off, and his team’s misery was completed when Lewis Baker banged home from the spot.

 

The victory ensures England won the group with seven points from their three games, while Poland, in their home tournament, finished bottom with just one point.

They now wait to see who they will play in the semi-finals on Tuesday, June 27.

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@alexclapham

An Englishman that is a coach and analyst within the youth academy of a Spanish club whilst studying Sports Coaching. Obsessive over the tactical concepts of the European game, Alex regularly attends games in the La Liga, Bundesliga and Serie A.

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