Dave Sexton's inexperienced England side were beaten by a Croat team whose slick and stylish performance at Roker Park last night suggested the full England side will have a match on their hands at Wembley tonight.
It could have been different if a fierce header from Charlton's Richard Rufus, the captain and one of eight newcomers in the side, had found the target in the first half instead of rattling the bar.
From a cross by Manchester United's Terry Cooke, Bruce Dyer, of Crystal Palace, powered in a header that goalkeeper Vedran Runje got a hand to, but the Croats picked up the pace and after 33 minutes Davor Vugrinec hit the underside of the bar.
A minute later they took the lead. The England goalkeeper, Chris Day of Tottenham, did well to beat away a shot from Ante Covic but Jurica Vucko made no mistake from the rebound.
Vucko should have added a second after the break when he shot wide from in front of goal.
ENGLAND UNDER-21: Day (Tottenham); Brown (Man City), Briscoe (Sheff Wed), O'Connor (Everton), Rufus (Charlton), Thatcher (Millwall), Cooke (Man Utd), Ford (Leeds), Gallen (QPR), Dyer (C Palace), Holland (Newcastle). Substitutes: Plummer (QPR) for O'Connor, 63; Carbon (Derby) for Thatcher, 63; Moore (Tranmere) for Gallen, 71; Davis (Luton) for Day, 71; Hendrie (Aston Villa) for Ford, 86.
CROATIA UNDER-21: Runje; Milic, Cuitanovic, Thomas, Lalic, Juric, Vucko, Cizmek, Maric, Vugrinec, Kovic. Substitutes: Krznaric for Vucko, 77; Tudor for Kovic, 87; Ivankovic for Vugrinec, 85
Referee: W Young (Glasgow).
n England Under-18 reached the finals of the European Championship in France this summer after a 3-0 win over their Scotland in Yeovil last night. Tottenham's Stephen Clemence, son of former Liverpool and Spurs goalkeeper Ray, scored the first goal from a penalty. Leeds United's Andy Shepherd and Jason Blunt completed the scoring.Reuse content