On Friday 16th June, the heavily-anticipated UEFA U21 European Championships got underway, as Sweden took on a strong England outfit and Slovakia taking on hosts Poland in the late kick-off. Here’s how the first day of action panned out:
Sweden U21s 0-0 England U21s-Group A (17:00 BST)
Ten minutes into the encounter, Tammy Abraham went close by volleying an inch-perfect corner from set-piece specialist James Ward-Prowse over the bar.
Pawel Cibicki fired well over the bar from a tight angle following a pass into the channel by Gustav Engvall midway inside the first half, before Jacob Murphy fizzed a 20-yard effort just over the bar as the Swedish defence backed off the Norwich City man.
Abraham’s overhead kick from six yards out following an England throw-in ended up in the stands before the referee blew for half-time.
Both sides hit woodwork
In the second half, a great effort from Cibicki struck the crossbar as he curled an effort towards goal from 18 yards with his right peg. Lewis Baker fired over the top after a corner routine found him in space on the edge of the six-yard box, with Carlos Strandberg flashing a shot into the side-netting after getting in behind the England defence.
A minute later, Ben Chillwell’s rising drive took a wild deflection and smacked off of the crossbar.
Ward-Prowse saw a free-kick well saved by Anton Cajtoft, however, it would be his opposite number, Everton’s new signing Jordan Pickford, who would come to the rescue. Chillwell lunged in recklessly on a Swedish attacker and was deemed to have caught the man ahead of the ball. Linus Wahlqvist went for the ‘Panenka chip’ and Pickford clawed the attempt away and Strandberg could only fire the rebound back at the young shot-stopper, with England still failing to win their first opening game in this competition since 2009.
Sweden XI: Cajtoft, Wahlqvist, Une Larsson, Dagerstal, Lundqvist, Hallberg, Tibbling (Tankovic 85), Fransson (Mrabti 73), Olsson, Engvall (Strandberg 59), Cibicki.
England XI: Pickford, Holgate, Mawson, Chambers, Chilwell, Ward-Prowse, Chalobah, Baker, Redmond, Abraham, Jacob Murphy (Gray 70).
Poland U21s 1-2 Slovakia U21s-Group A (19:45 BST)
Poland draw first blood
Poland took the lead inside the first minute when a cross from captain Tomasz Kedziora was met by a bullet header from number 10 Patryk Lipski as he got in ahead of his marker to put the host nation 1-0 up.
Mariusz Stepinski nodded a corner kick at the back post into the arms of Slovakia goalkeeper Adrian Chovan before Slovakia got an equaliser on the 20-minute mark. Jaroslav Mihalik found Martin Chrien, who turned on a sixpence and managed to find Martin Valjent overlapping down the right. Valjent took the shot on first-time and drilled his effort beyond the reach of Jakub Wrabel for 1-1.
Slovakia almost took the lead when Mihalik’s swerving shot from 20 yards was spilled by Wrabel as he attempted to hold, with Adam Zrelak pouncing on the rebound and seeing his attempt ricochet off the keeper and over the bar, with the first half eventually sizzling out.
Poland went close with 15 minutes to go when Karol Linetty drove down the left-hand side, only to see his cross half-cleared back to him but the Pole could only slash wide. Slovakia nabbed themselves a late winner 12 minutes from time, against all the odds, when Matus Bero lost the ball on the edge of the area. However, substitute Pavol Safranko was able to pick up the loose ball and slot his shot past Wrabel to make it 2-1 to Slovakia.
Poland denied at death
Pawel Dawidowicz went close to getting the Poles level as he rose to nod a header towards goal, but Chovan, who had barely anything to do all night, reacted quickly and tipped the header over the bar for a corner.
Poland XI: Wrabel, Kedziora, Bednarek, Jach, Jaroszynski, Dawidowicz, Linetty, Frankowski, Lipski, Kaputska, Stepinski (Piatek 83).
Slovakia XI: Chovan, Valjant, Ninaj, Skriniar (Safranka 71), Mazan, Lobotka, Rusnak, Bero (Benes), Chrien, Mihalik, Zrelak.