England blew a golden chance to put one foot in the European Under-21 Championship play-offs last night as Belgium scored a last-minute winner to send qualifying Group Eight back into the balance.
Martin Kelly's early goal looked set to maintain the Young Lions' 100 per cent record in the group but a double substitution by the home side proved a masterstroke as Jens Naessens equalised 18 minutes from time and Omar El Kaddouri pounced in the dying seconds after Jordan Henderson had missed a glorious chance for the visitors.
The result lifted Belgium up to second in the Group Eight table, four points behind England, with a return meeting between the two sides to come in February.
The manner of England's defeat was eerily similar to this summer's loss to the Czech Republic when they crashed out of the finals in Denmark, and the head coach, Stuart Pearce, will be hoping a similar fate does not befall his latest crop of youngsters in their last three group games.
Scotland Under-21s secured a memorable 2-1 win over the Group 10 leaders Netherlands, with David Wotherspoon scoring a 55th-minute winner for Billy Stark's side in Nijmegen. The victory ended the Netherlands' 100 per cent record and moved unbeaten Scotland into second place.
Scotland got off to a flying start with Jordan Rhodes scoring after 60 seconds – his sixth goal in three games. The Dutch equalised after 12 minutes when the linesman judged that Scotland's goalkeeper Mark Ridgers had dropped the ball over the line after misjudging Adam Maher's long free-kick, despite Scottish protests.
The Netherlands pressed for a second and created several chances. Luciano Narsingh sliced wide and Nacer Barazite shot into the side net under pressure from Danny Wilson. Barazite then found Narsingh, who turned Paul Hanlon and looked certain to score but Ridgers parried his powerful shot.
The Netherlands started the second half on top with Ridgers pushing over a long-range effort from winger Ola John and blocking at close range from Stefan de Vrij. But Rhodes soon had another great chance when he met Gregg Wylde's cross at the near post but could not turn it on target.
Scotland were ahead two minutes later. Ryan Jack made progress up the right wing before turning the ball inside for Wotherspoon. The Hibernian midfielder fired an angled drive from 16 yards which Dutch goalkeeper Marco Bizot failed to keep out.
Scotland remained on top. Wylde headed over and Forrest saw a volley diverted just wide after turning a defender. Rhodes almost added to his 19 goals this season with a spectacular first-time volley that fizzed inches over after Forrest had again got round his man and crossed.
Stark, whose side moved a point behind the Netherlands after four games each, said: "At half-time I said to them to have the belief and confidence to play. We had to get more of the ball. We ended up kicking it [in the first half], which I think was a result of losing the goal and taking a blow to our confidence.
"We had to take it out from the back to buy ourselves time. Once we did that we were working Holland a bit more and we got into the game."
Stark ultimately had no complaints about the goal they conceded. "We have given the linesman a bit of stick. But we got word quite quickly so we apologised to the linesman.He has made the right decision.
In Group Seven, the Republic of Ireland enjoyed a comfortable 2-0 victory over Liechtenstein at The Showgrounds in Sligo. The result keeps the Republic third in the group but they have closed to within three points of joint leaders Italy and Turkey.Reuse content