ENGLAND U21 3, ALBANIA U21 0
England clinched qualification for next year’s Euro Under-21 finals after an impressive victory against Albania at Chesterfield.
Two goals from Arsenal’s Folarin Balogun and another strike from Aston Villa’s Cameron Archer meant England cannot be caught at the top of Group G with two games still to play.
Balogun made it six goals in nine U21 appearances as he has clearly benefited from a season’s loan at Middlesbrough.
England have seven wins and a draw from eight qualifiers as second-placed Czech Republic cannot overhaul them.Embed from Getty Images
It was a game dominated by England who could easily have won by a wider margin.
England dominated the opening half, and the only surprise was that the breakthrough did not come until the 44th minute through Balogun.
Everton’s Anthony Gordon forced a save from Bruno Puja inside two minutes, and that set the tone for the half.
Former Manchester United winger Angel Gomes, now of French club Lille, struck the upright and Emile Smith Rowe glanced a header wide.
Albania’s first chance mid-half came from an England error, a poor clearance from Stoke City’s Josef Bursik to Armando Dobra, but the goalkeeper got back to keep out the midfielder’s strike from 25 yards.
England kept knocking on the door as Gordon and Manchester City midfielder Tommy Doyle twice both failed to hit the target.
The stalemate was broken on the stroke of half time following an Albanian back pass.
Goalkeeper Puja’s passed the ball out of defence to Adolf Selmani whose heavy touch allowed Smith Rowe to dispossess the centre back and crossing for Arsenal’s Middlesbrough loanee Balogun who had the easiest of chances firing into an empty net from six yards.
In stoppage time, Selmani glanced a header narrowly wide from a corner, an attempt to atone his costly error moments earlier.
England made their first change on the hour as Smith Rowe made way for Morgan Gibbs-White, the Sheffield United loanee from Wolves, who helped set up England’s second in the 66th minute.
Gibbs-White float a cross to the far post where Charlie Cresswell headed the ball back across the face of goal for Balogun to head home from two yards.
Albania kept plugging away and Errnesi Muci’s effort from distance forced a good save from Bursik.
England added a third in the 77th minute through substitute Archer who had only been on the field for four minutes.
Gordon made a brilliant burst to the by-line and whipped in a low cross for Archer, who spent last season on loan at Preston from Aston Villa, found the net with a classy near-post shot which flashed into the roof of the net.
Albania lost their discipline as Dobra was sent off moments later for picking up a second booking.
Bursik ensured he kept a clean sheet with a fine flying save in the fifth of five added minutes to deny Albion Marku on a perfect night for England.