Digital Football Journalist
England U21 5-1 Austria U21: Eddie Nketiah grabs hat-trick for Young Lions
Callum Hudson-Odoi also scores twice at Stadium MK
Last Updated: 16/10/19 6:46am
Eddie Nketiah netted a hat-trick as England U21s routed Austria U21s 5-1 to move top of their Euro 2021 qualifying group.
The Young Lions moved top of their qualifying group with an emphatic win which owed everything to a stunning first-half performance, with Nketiah netting two goals of what ended up a second career hat-trick.
The Arsenal loanee netted two close-range finishes (28, 39) sandwiched between fine strikes from Callum Hudson-Odoi (12, 45), the second a wonderful curling effort after a 40-yard run from the halfway line.
With such an emphatic lead Aidy Boothroyd's side dropped their intensity after the break and never fully regained their stride.
They allowed Christoph Baumgartner to net a consolation (66), but Nketiah did secure the match-ball with 11 minutes to go when he turned in Rhian Brewster's low cross.
England U21: Ramsdale (7), Justin (7), Guehi (6), Kelly (7), Aarons (8), Davies (7), Foden (9), Willock (6), Hudson-Odoi (8), Nketiah (9), McNeil (7).
Subs: Brewster (7), Sessegnon (7), Skipp (6), Gallagher (n/a), Surridge (n/a).
Man of the match: Eddie Nketiah
He still had time to miss a late penalty in the final five minutes but that made little difference on a sparkling night for the U21s, who knock their visitors off top spot in Group 3, with a game in hand.
Stunning first half earns England victory
You will rarely see a side cut another open at this level as much as England did to an in-form Austria before the break. Phil Foden ran the midfield battle but it was a wonderful cross-field pass from Lloyd Kelly that really got them going, finding Max Aarons on the right before his low cross was fired home powerfully by Hudson-Odoi.
Now into their stride, England added a second when Foden's corner was bundled in by Nketiah, and he soon added a second by rising to glance home a perfect centre from Dwight McNeil.
Austria could not cope with England's pace, trickery and guile as the front four interchanged at will, often overloading the visitors' backline, and eventually leading to the fourth goal.
On the break, Hudson-Odoi had four options up with him but raced from the halfway line to the edge of the box, chose against playing one of them in and instead curled a stunning effort beyond Fabian Ehmann.
Euro U21 qualifying Group C
|1. England U21||3||9|
|2. Austria U21||4||9|
|3. Kosovo U21||4||6|
|4. Albania U21||5||5|
|5. Turkey U21||5||4|
|6. Andorra U21||3||1|
England's second-half performance lacked the sparkle of their opening 45 minutes, with their passing lacking the zip or incision before the break, and they were punished for some lax defending when Christoph Baumgartner headed home Marco Grull's cross after beating Marc Guehi in the air.
The hosts still created the odd chance though, and the introduction of Brewster added some more raw pace to worry Austria. So it proved 11 minutes from time when the Liverpool man advanced down the right, collected a pass from Steven Sessegnon and looked into the middle for Nketiah, who slotted home his hat-trick goal.
He could have put the cherry on a very large cake late on after Brewster was fouled by Ehmann in the box, but the goalkeeper redeemed himself to keep out his effort from 12 yards.
Analysis: Young Lions at their best
Sky Sports' Ron Walker:
"That first half was as good as England U21s have produced in a long time. The interchange of play, the tempo... The passing, the off-the-ball movement was probably the highlight but Austria were run ragged by England's intensity and quality.
"Naturally, that waned after half-time on the back of a tiring couple of games for the Young Lions, who started 10 of the same players who had begun the game in Slovenia on Friday.
"Nketiah will take the plaudits but Phil Foden was outstanding in midfield and Callum Hudson-Odoi announced his return with a stunning performance. After a tough summer, the autumn is looking a lot brighter.
Nketiah on penalty miss
England hat-trick hero, Leeds' Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah, said: "The goalkeeper went a bit early, it was a good save from him and I'm disappointed not to get the fourth, but I'm happy with the team performance today and my performance and three goals.
"I'm in good form for club and country, every time I come away here it's a great opportunity to show the talents I have, I try to take it with both hands because the manager has shown a lot of faith in me [by] giving me game time.
Nketiah season stats
|Minutes for Leeds||329|
|Goals for Leeds||4|
|Minutes for England U21s||297|
|Goals for England U21s||6|
"Obviously, it's been disappointing not starting a game in the league for Leeds, I went there to play games, but it's still early days. Every time I've come on, I've done well. I think tonight was a good way for me to make a statement and hopefully I can start the next run of games now."
Boothroyd wants more of Hudson-Odoi
England U21 boss Aidy Boothroyd said: "I hope [that's not his last England U21 game].
"He's been brilliant for us, if a player was a senior and then came back down to us they could be moody but he has been first class, on and off the pitch.
"If anything in both games he was almost trying too hard, things don't come off but what he did tonight was exceptional."