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Portugal pile the agony on Southgate's Young Lions

By Staff Reporter

England's bruising build-up proved too much to cope with as Gareth Southgate's men just fell short in their Under-21 European Championship Group B opener against Portugal.

Things have unravelled for the Young Lions in the Czech Republic, with Everton's John Stones ruled out for two games with suspected concussion and a knee injury forcing West Brom striker Saido Berahino to withdraw just hours before kick-off.

Those absences were keenly felt in Uherske Hradiste as a solid, battling display was not quite enough against classy Portugal, with Joao Mario's second-half strike securing a 1-0 triumph which extends England's six-year wait for a finals win.

Football Association chairman Greg Dyke and England assistant manager Ray Lewington were at the Mestsky Fotbalovy Stadion as the Young Lions got their fifth straight finals appearance under way, but they witnessed a defeat which only increases the chances of a third successive group-stage exit.

The teams traded blows from the outset and the first half witnessed 19 shots, with Harry Kane pictured and Jesse Lingard coming closest for England while Jack Butland prevented Liam Moore from inadvertently gifting their opponents an early lead.

Portugal edged the first half, but scored the game's only goal against the run of play, with Mario reacting quickest after man-of-the-match Bernardo Silva's strike came back off the post and Butland.

The Young Lions pushed for a leveller, but they were unable to rustle one up, heightening the importance of Sunday's clash with Sweden, who beat Italy 2-1, in Olomouc.

Belfast Telegraph

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