Danny Lewis has a look at the players that stood out during the U21 Euros group game that finished Slovakia 1-2 England.
As cliché as it is this was very much a game of two halves. In the first England played poorly, with Slovakia on top and getting an opener through Martin Chrien’s header from a corner. However, in the second half England really picked up their game and ended up winning the game 2-1 thanks to goals from Alfie Mawson and Nathan Redmond.
The Slovakians were very up for the game and their intensity spilled over at times, with the team picking up two needless yellow cards. Whereas England got three, with two of those coming in the latter stages of the game when they were desperately hanging on to their lead. The Slovakian supporters were out in full force, massively outnumbering the English fans, making this feel like a Slovakia home game. Their influence on the Slovakian players was clear to see, as they were fired up the whole game and towards the end of the match when their supporters became more and more frustrated, was when Slovakia upped their game the most.
However, England defended resolutely under sustained pressure to come out of the game with a vital win that sees them go into Group A’s final match top of the table. Here is what the decisive players did to stand out.
The Southampton winger was played as a striker in what looked like a 4-1-2-1-2 formation, as opposed to being put on the wing in a 4-3-3 as was the case in England’s opening day match against Sweden. Despite not being used to playing this position he did not look out of place at all. Redmond would make runs in behind the defence towards the channels, which gave both England’s full backs and more central players an out ball, while also stretching the Slovakia defence. He also held the ball up well, which allowed him to bring his team mates into the game.
He worked tirelessly for the team and this constant source of running meant that he was always available to receive the ball and that Slovakia’s defensive players were put under pressure whenever they had the ball. Redmond was also a threat with the ball at his feet and would often allow the defender to stand up to him before beating them. This was the case when he scored his goal, as the Slovakian defender stood up to him towards the edge of his box before Redmond cut inside him and unleashed a shot across goal into the top corner.
Slovakia’s 4-4-2 formation meant that their central midfielders had to do a lot of work to attempt to outdo England’s diamond. Slovakia may not have won, but their two starting centre midfielders certainly did their bit, especially Stanislav Lobotka. Whenever an English player had the ball Lobotka would not be too far away and he covered so much ground to ensure that the English players had as little time to think as possible. He could often be seen beating the likes of Tammy Abraham and Nathaniel Chalobah to a ball, using his speed and sheer determination to retrieve the ball.
The midfielder who plays his domestic football for FC Nordsjælland also helped his team to retain possession of the ball when they had it. He wouldn’t take too many risks with the ball at his feet, but was still able to prevent Slovakia’s attacks from stagnating. This was especially important towards the end of the match when it would have been easy for them to lose their head and get hit on the counter attack. He showed a brilliant mix of discipline and skill throughout the game which was a vital component of Slovakia sustaining a relentless attack on England’s goal in the latter stages without leaving themselves too vulnerable defensively.
Although he was unable to prevent Slovakia getting a goal, Chambers was a large contributor to them not getting a second. He and Alfie Mawson stood strong through periods of real pressure from the Slovakian attack. Chambers was communicating to his team mates constantly, especially Jacob Murphy, who replaced Mason Holgate at right back when the sides came out after half time despite naturally being a winger. Chambers was able to help him through his communication, ensuring that Murphy was never too far out of position, leading to Murphy also putting in a brilliant performance.
Regarding his own positioning, in the latter stages Chambers always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. The Arsenal man who spent last season on loan at Middlesbrough was always on hand to block any Slovakian shots and really put his body on the line for the cause. He also had to be smart though, as there were many times when he could have easily given away a penalty or a free kick on the edge of the box, however the timing of his tackles in and around the box was inch perfect and he would always come away from them with the ball. Chambers was a real leader in defence, which is exactly what a team needs when they are under the type of pressure that the English were put under during the latter stages of this game.
Bero is normally a midfielder, however in this game he played up alongside Adam Zrelák as a striker. He worked relentlessly through the game and was always pressing England’s players whenever they were on the ball. This made it harder for them to play their passing game and allowed the likes of Lobotka and Chrien to take up their positions to minimalise England’s threat.
Aside from this the smart runs of the man who plays his domestic football in Turkey for Trabzonspor also helped his side in an attacking sense. He would often try to get between the full back and centre back. There were a few times where he almost got himself on the score sheet, however he wasn’t quite able to make the most of his chances. Despite this, he was still a vital player for the operation of Slovakia’s all action game plan due to his energy and physical attributes.
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