England U21 3-0 Poland U21: Young Lions roar into semi-finals
By Michael Cox & Lewis Jones
Last Updated: 23/06/17 7:36am
England roared into the European U21 Championship semi-finals after their 3-0 win over Poland was enough to finish top of Group A.
Aidy Boothroyd's side knew a victory would enough for a guaranteed place in the last four and wasted no time in getting the job done, with Demarai Gray netting with just six minutes on the clock.
England peppered the Poland goal with plenty of efforts and got their deserved cushion through further goals in the second-half from Jacob Murphy and a Lewis Baker penalty, after Tammy Abraham was taken down by Jan Bednarek, who was sent-off for a second yellow card.
England will now play in Tuesday's semi-final against an opponent yet to be decided.
Gray broke the deadlock in emphatic fashion. The Leicester forward received the ball after some good work from Ben Chilwell on the left flank. He shaped to shoot and fired a clean strike into the far corner, providing England with the perfect start.
Demarai Gray replaced Tammy Abraham to lead the line in England’s only change from the team that beat Slovakia.
Keeping the pressure on throughout the first-half, the Young Lions may have been out of sight if it were not for the heroics of Poland's Jakub Wrabel in goal.
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Two corners in quick succession saw Nathaniel Chalobah and Alfie Mawson's downward headers beaten away smartly and, shortly after, John Swift's 30-yard drive looked destined for the top corner, but Wrabel's acrobatics rescued Poland once more.
Boothroyd's side continued to dominate after the restart, with James Ward-Prowse, in particular, delivering some inviting set-pieces, but despite enjoying a greater share of the possession, England's lead remained slight.
England: Pickford (7), Holgate (6), Chilwell (7), Chambers (8), Mawson (9), Chalobah (7), Ward-Prowse (7), Baker (6), Gray (8), Redmond (6), Swift (6). Subs: Murphy (8), Hughes (7), Abraham (7)
However, that crucial second came in the 69th minute. A rare Poland attack broke down in the England penalty area fifteen minutes before time and Mawson's clearance found its way out to goal scorer Gray. He drove at the defence before squaring to Murphy, who guided the ball into an empty net.
Substitute Abraham had just enough to time to make an impact, his slaloming run forced a foul in the Polish area and Bednarek was shown a second yellow. Baker stepped up and hammered the ball into the bottom corner to send the Young Lions to within 90 minutes of a major final.
Man of the match - Ben Chilwell
Alan Smith: "He was sensational in the opening 45 minutes and played a big part in the crucial opening goal. He slalomed up and down the left wing and was strong in possession."