England Under-17’s got their European Championship Elite Round campaign off to the perfect start with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Turkey at Chesterfield’s Proact Stadium.
Arsenal youngster Reiss Nelson put the Three Lions ahead two minutes before half time and two minutes after the restart, the hosts advantage was doubled courtesy of 16-year-old Jonathan Leko.
Nelson doubled his tally from the penalty spot six minutes later to put England out of sight and despite Furkan Korkut scoring a late consolation for the visitors, it was a good start for two-time Under-17 European champions as they look to qualify for the finals in Azerbaijan.
It’s a well known fact that England’s full international side have failed to win a major tournament for half a century. But at Under-17 level, the Three Lions have seen much more success, lifting the European Championship twice in the previous 14 editions of the annual competition – in 2010 and most recently 2014.
This year’s 16-team finals will take place in Azerbaijan this coming May and England kicked off their final qualifying campaign this evening in Chesterfield. Having topped the original qualification group above Portugal, Armenia and San Marino, England had advanced to the ‘Elite Round’ stage where the 15 sides who will join the hosts in the finals are decided.
The Three Lions, managed by Steve Cooper, had been handed home advantage in their group – starting with a meeting with Turkey at the Proact Stadium on this Thursday evening. This would be followed by Finland at Leek Town’s Harrison Park on Saturday and finally Ukraine at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium the following Tuesday.
Should England top the group, they would be guaranteed a place in Azerbaijan, while second-place could potentially also secure qualification.
A large and expectant crowd of over 2,500 people had turned out for this 7 o’clock kick off, but it was the visitors who made the stronger start. Goalkeeper Adam Parkes made a shaky start with two errors inside eight minutes gifting Turkey opportunities but some last ditch defending, first from captain Trevoh Chalobah and then Parkes himself, denied the attackers.
Chalobah, younger brother of Chelsea’s Nathaniel, had to be alert again on the quarter of an hour to deny what looked to be a certain goalscoring opportunity for Metehan Guclu courtesy of a fortunate deflection.
But having weathered the early Turkish storm, England began to settle down and control the action far more. A great piece of play from the youngsters saw Ryan Sessegnon get on the end of a dangerous cross to the far post, but he could only direct his header wide of the far post.
Some neat work between Leko and Mason Mount allowed the later through on goal a few moments later but the brave Turkey stopper Ozturk Emre charged the ball down before Mount could put the opportunity away.
With two minutes of the 40-minute halves remaining however, the hosts deservedly broke the deadlock after a lengthy spell of pressure. 16-year-old Arsenal youngster Nelson was the scorer as he hammered home from close range.
Two minutes after the restart, England’s advantage was doubled. Leko, of West Bromwich Albion, rounded the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the empty net with great composure.
And in the 48th minute, the Three Lions were out of sight. Sessegnon was brought down in the area by the flailing arm of the Turkish goalkeeper, leaving the referee with no option to point to the spot, and Nelson calmly fired past Emre to make it 3-0.
From here, England were in their comfort zone and continued to search for goals as Chalobah and Nelson both fired shots at goal, the latter stinging the palms of the ‘keeper as he looked to make it a hat-trick.
Turkey rarely ventured forward in the second half but with two minutes of normal time to go, Korkut smashed home a rebound after Parkes had palmed away an original strike to give the visitors a glimmer of hope.
However, despite Turkey winning a couple of corners in additional time, a comeback never looked likely and at the referee’s whistle echoed around the Proact Stadium the scoreline was 3-1 to England – a brilliant way to start their Elite Round games.
Line-up: Adam Parkes, Dujon Sterling (Samuel Shashoua ’76), Jaden Brown, Marcus McGuane, Trevor Chalobah, Japhet Tanganga, Andre Dozzell, Jonathan Leko (Ben Morris ’69), Mason Mount (Dennis Adeniran ’76), Reiss Nelson, Ryan Sessegnon
Unused subs: Tolaji Bola, James Cumming, Edward Francis, Martell Taylor-Crossdale
Scorers: Reiss Nelson ’38 ’48, Jonathan Leko ’42
Line-up: Ozturk Emre, Murharrem Oner, Furkan Korkut, Recep Yemisci, Yilmaz Kilic (Mert Muldur ’53), Oguz Kagan Guctekin, Omer Faruk Canbirdi (Alparslan Demir ’53), Ufuckcan Engin, Metehan Guclu, Abdulkadir Omur, Guven Yalcin (Burak Kapacak ’62)
Unused subs: Mehmet Ataberk Dadakdeniz, Ramazan Keskin, Abdullah Kasap, Ahmet Hakan Sevinc
Scorers: Furkan Korkut ’78
Date: 24th March 2016
Competition: U17 UEFA European Championship Elite Round
Referee: Sergio Filipe Grade de Sousa Piscarreta (Portugal)