Spirit, resolution, flair and a victory over Germany. Perhaps there is a need to feel a tinge of optimism about what Gareth Southgate has been developing since he took over the nation’s Under-21 side.
Any victory over Germany will raise an eyebrow, perhaps even a beer, and one that was fashioned with a rousing comeback in front of 30,000 fans on a wet and cold night at least points to better times.
England had to show character. When the excellent Philipp Hofmann fired in his second goal of the evening in the 52nd minute, it had looked like a perfect birthday for the 22-year-old Kaiserslautern forward.
Hofmann was excellent. In the 54th minute, he smashed in what would have been his hat-trick goal, only for an infringement in the penalty area to deny him. The referee, Davide Massa, also turned down a vociferous penalty appeal for the visitors when England trailed. They would prove key moments, but you could not question the heart of Southgate’s side.
It did not feel like a friendly and the England team did not look like a side that had been changed in eight positions, following last week’s victory against the Czech Republic in Prague. England have the belief of a side that has lost just once in the 16 games since Southgate succeeded Stuart Pearce.
There were just 10 minutes remaining when Nathan Redmond cut back and fired a shot that took a deflection off Christian Gunter as it flew past Marc-André ter Stegen.
Two minutes later, the excellent James Ward-Prowse rounded off a fine, flowing move with the winning goal after taking a pass from Carl Jenkinson. It was a deserved victory but one that had looked some way off after Hoffman’s interventions.
The striker scored in either half, and both goals were laced with the quality of a player who has now scored nine times in the 15 games he has played for for his country at this level.
Hofmann’s first came in the 15th minute when he fired Gunter’s left-wing cross past Watford goalkeeper Jonathan Bond. It says much for the growing belief in the England squad that the team’s fluency was not overly affected by the number of changes made and through conceding so early on.
In the 22nd minute, Jesse Lingard’s shot was blocked at the far post and 10 minutes later he fed Danny Ings, who cut inside two defenders and hit a shot that was tipped behind for a corner by Ter Stegen.
From the resulting corner, Lingard missed the chance to equalise but it would not prove a significant miss as two minutes later, England were deservedly level. Jeninkson was the creator, ending his fine run with a low cross that Lingard turned home with a first-time, right-footed shot.
Hoffman restored Germany’s lead from close range seven minutes after the interval after a Serge Gnabry cross, but then England found their spirit. In the closing stages, Ings should have made it 4-2 but he fired straight at the German goalkeeper.
England U21: Bond, Jenkinson, Garbutt, Stones, Gibson, Lingard, Forster-Caskey, Ward-Prowse, Hughes, Redmond, Ings. Subs: Bettinelli, Chambers, Keane, Pritchard, Woodrow, Moore.
Germany U21: Ter Stegen, Knoche, Korb, Gunter, Ginter, Bittencourt, Leitner, Can, Younes, Meyer, Hofmann. Subs: Horn, Schulz, Orban, Geis, Malli, Zimmer, Klaus, Gnabry, Kimmich, Karius.
Referee: Davide Massa (Imperia)Reuse content