Croatia U21 3-3 England U21: Young Lions pegged back three times
Young Lions led three times but leaked goals at regular intervals
Last Updated: 25/06/19 6:27am
England U21s showed more defensive frailties as they ended their dismal European Championship campaign with a 3-3 draw with Croatia.
England had already been eliminated from Group C after Friday's 4-2 defeat to Romania in Cesena, with Aidy Boothroyd - who signed a two-year extension in May - insisting he would not quit.
The Young Lions led three times in this dead-rubber encounter with goals from Reiss Nelson (11), James Maddison (48) and Jonjoe Kenny (69). However, lapses in concentration at the back allowed Josip Brekalo (39 & 81) and Nikola Vlasic (61) to punish England.
England Player Ratings
England U21: Henderson (6), Kenny (6), Clarke-Salter (6), Tomori (5), Kelly (5), Foden (7), Maddison (8), Dowell (6), Gray (6), Abraham (6), Nelson (7)
Subs: Konsa (5), Mount (6), Gibbs-White (6)
Man of the match: James Maddison
In three Group C matches, Boothroyd's pre-tournament favourites conceded nine goals in their three games as the players head home to their clubs earlier than expected.
England got the perfect start on 11 minutes when Branimir Kalaica tripped Nelson in the box after a slick pass by the recalled Phil Foden, who was controversially rested by Boothroyd for the defeat against Romania.
Aidy Boothroyd made four changes to his side.
Lloyd Kelly came in for Jay Dasilva, Phil Foden for Mason Mount, Reiss Nelson for Harvey Barnes and Tammy Abraham for Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
Ivan Grbic stopped Demarai Gray making it 2-0 after 36 minutes from Tammy Abraham's ball, but Brekalo levelled it up when Kenny allowed him to cut inside and fire home.
England regained the lead three minutes after the restart. Nelson's looping cross was only headed straight to Maddison, who fired home from 12 yards out.
Lloyd Kelly then handed Croatia a way back into the game with a loose pass and former Everton midfielder Vlasic swept home from the edge of the box.
England looked like they bagged a sensational winner from an unlikely source when Kenny fired his team ahead with a powerful strike from 25 yards.
However, Brekalo - Croatia's star man - slotted a low finished past Dean Henderson after once again the England defence were left woefully exposed.
Man of the match: James Maddison
Classy. England's bright spark that knitted everything together in midfield. Got a goal his performance merited when slamming home from 15 yards after a poor headed clearance. A player of his ability shouldn't be leaving this competition at the group stages.
Manager reaction: Aidy Boothroyd
He told Sky Sports: "The teams we've played so far have been street-wise, and we're not, and we need to get that into our game.
"Scored six, nine against, it's not tournament-winning statistics, but there are many positives from the way we go forward, and clearly issues we need to address with a new team for next season.
"Why aren't they learning their lessons? It's a good question which I'll be asking tomorrow before we depart. I think at this level, if you make individual errors you get punished."
England went into the tournament as favourites to lift the trophy, but they leave it with their tails between their legs having only taken a single point from three group games.What's next? Nick Wright takes a look...
England's development slumps
Since winning the Under-17 World Cup in October 2017, England's youth sides have struggled across the age groups in tournaments. In the seven tournaments since, they have won the Toulon Tournament, reached the last four of the Under-17s Euros, but otherwise failed to reach a knockout phase.
- October 2017 Under-17 World Cup - WON
- May 2018 - Under-17s Euros - Semi-finals
- June 2018 - Toulon Tournament - WON
- July 2018 - Under-19s Euros - Group stage
- May 2019 - Under-17s Euros - Group stage
- June 2019 - Toulon tournament - Group stage
- June 2019 - Under-21s Euros - Group stage
- July 2019 - Under-19s Euros - Failed to qualify