England under-21s won convincingly at Stadium MK, putting a lacklustre Finland side in their place
England were in the driving seat from the first minute as they dominated possession and bullied a Finland side that just couldn’t match their quality.
Gareth Southgate's side started strongly but didn’t make many goal scoring opportunities early on as they struggled to carve open a 10 man Finland defence. The pace of Sterling and Zaha was dealt with by the away side's slow, rigid defence by bringing them down and not allowing them time on the ball.
Unfortunately, they obviously didn’t know about James Ward-Prowse. The Southampton midfielder has an impeccable delivery that could only be likened to former England captain David Beckham, and in the 21st minute he set up Manchester United defender Michael Keane, who beat his man and score with an header.
England continued to press on after their goal, and most of their joy came down the left hand side with Southampton full-back Luke Shaw being the thorn in Finland’s side. Eventually, a piece of clever movement to get beyond his man saw Shaw bearing down on goal. The full-back saw his shot parried into the path of Saido Berahino, who struck the top corner from six yards to put England 2-0 up.
The second half continued in a similar fashion to the first, as England looked indecisive in possession and struggled to carve opportunities out of the rigid Finland defence as they continued to nullify their chances.
The inclusion of Will Hughes, Tom Ince and Jesse Lingard from the bench was a breath of fresh air for England as they replaced the ineffective Nathaniel Chalobah, Raheem Sterling and Ravel Morrison. Will Hughes brought an air of decisiveness and intelligence into the England team, and that showed as he and Saido Berahino created England’s cleverest play of the night, which resulted in the West Brom man firing against the cross bar.
Minutes later, Lingard’s driving run at the box had the Finland defence scrambling, and when Will Hughes made an intelligent run dragging the defenders away from Berahino, who received the ball in space and camly finished for his second goal of the night, and England’s first.
The main topic of the night was of course the out of favour Manchester United man Wilfried Zaha. The winger was clearly on a mission to grab headlines, but in the end was left frustrated as a series of bad decisions, an unneeded amount of show boating and overall poor wing play drew criticisms from both fans and pundits.
Commentator and former Manchester United star Owen Hargreaves summed it up perfectly when asked ‘what do you think Moyes think of his performance’ and he insinuated he didn’t expect to see him play for Manchester United any time soon.
In my opinion, this was a perfect chance to shine but coming off the pitch, he can have no complaints over the criticism. Apart from perhaps the abysmal Sterling, he was probably the second worst England performer on the night.
image: © geetarchurchy