ENGLAND U21 1, SLOVENIA U21 2
England failed to complete their Euro Under-21 qualification campaign unbeaten following a home defeat by Slovenia.
Having sealed their passage to the finals with two games left, Lee Carsley’s side was aiming to complete its 10-match programme unbeaten.
While England had breezed through their campaign with eight victories, the two games they faltered in were both against a well-organised and disciplined Slovenia.Embed from Getty Images
The four points surrendered in the group were against Slovenia who triumphed at Huddersfield Town’s John Smith’s Stadium.
England never recovered from a first-minute own goal from Djed Spence and fell further behind to a Mark Zabukovnik strike.
Substitute Cameron Archer pulled a goal back for England in the five minutes of added time but it was too little, too late.
England made nine changes to the side that started Friday’s 5-0 win in Kosovo.
However, it contained eight players from the team that kicked off the game against Albania at Chesterfield which clinched qualification for the finals.
There were jeers as the names of James Garner and Spence were announced as they had been in the Nottingham Forest side which beat Huddersfield Town in the Championship play-off final.
Contrast that to the cheers which greeted Arsenal’s Emile Smith Rowe, a former Huddersfield loanee.
And Spence made a nightmare start putting through his own goal in the opening minute.
The right back, trying to cut out a Slovenian free kick, glanced a headed past goalkeeper Josef Bursik.
England could easily have slipped further behind but for Nino Zugelj pulling a shot narrowly wide.
It took Carsley’s side half an hour before carving out their first clear chance when a move down the right ended with Jacob Ramsey firing low past the upright.
In a bid to reinvigorate a lack-lustre display, Carsley made a triple change on thw hour as Spence, Jacob Ramsey and Folarin Balogun made way for Max Aarons, Jordan Archer and Harvey Elliott.
But it had an adverse effect as three minutes later Slovenia doubled their advantage as England were undone again from a free kick.
Luka Vesner Ticic’s deadly delivery was met by Mark Zabukovnik who found the net with a towering header which looped over Bursik.
England made a fourth change, Keane Lewis-Potter introduced for Garner.
They almost halved the deficit when Charlie Cresswell’s header from Morgan Gibbs-White’s corner was cleared off the line.
And a fifth England change saw Smith Rowe replaced by Lille’s Angel Gomes, formerly of Manchester United.
England were given hope of a dramatic finish when Archer, the striker loaned by Aston Villa to Preston North End last season, struck.
Archer cut in from the left and his fiercely-struck shot was too hot for goalkeeper Martin Turk who could only help it into the net.