Solanke’s late strike claims victory for England Under-21s against Ukraine
The Young Lions remain five points clear in the race for Euro 2019 with four games left.
Dominic Solanke’s late strike tightened England Under-21s’ grip on Euro 2019 qualification after a narrow 2-1 win over Ukraine.
The substitute grabbed the winner with only three minutes left just as it looked like Mykola Shaparenko’s header had rescued a point for the visitors.
Sheffield-born Dominic Calvert-Lewin netted a first-half opener as the Young Lions maintained their lead at the top of Group 4 thanks to a gritty performance at Bramall Lane.
They are five points clear of Holland in the race to Euro 2019 and remain unbeaten in 31 qualifying and play-off games.
But Young Lions never found their rhythm and needed Jonjoe Kenny’s stunning goal-line clearance to help them to victory.
They host second placed Holland in September knowing victory would put them on the brink of qualification for the tournament in Italy and San Marino next year.
Holland won 1-0 in Andorra on Tuesday to initially make ground on the Young Lions and the hosts made hard work of a robust Ukraine team in the first half.
Oleksandr Pikhalonok guided a early effort wide before Calvert-Lewin saw his header gathered by Andriy Lunin.
Ukraine controlled the opening stages although almost feel behind when Pavlo Lukyanchuk – who scored an own goal in England’s win in Kiev in November – nearly turned Demarai Gray’s effort into his own net.
But with Ukraine’s encouraging start, England boss Aidy Boothroyd, who made 10 changes from Saturday’s friendly win over Romania – including handing Ryan Sessegnon and James Maddison full debuts, would have been concerned with his side’s sloppy nature.
It was highlighted when Ben Chilwell lost possession inside his own area and needed Dael Fry to clear when Viktor Kovalenko hammered the ball goalwards with Artem Dovbyk lurking.
Before then England at least carved out an opening when Calvert-Lewin should have put them ahead when he guided Maddison’s free kick wide from 10 yards after 29 minutes.
But the Everton forward made amends four minutes before the break when he latched onto Maddison’s sumptuous deep ball to stab in from the edge of the box.
Yet the goal did little to settle England in the second half and they relied on Kenny’s brilliant goal-line clearance when head headed Lunov’s half volley over after 65 minutes.
Ukraine, fourth in the group, were giving England scares but Maddison nearly made it 2-0 in the 69th minute, curling wide from the edge of the box.
The game was too open for England’s liking though and they paid the price with eight minutes left when Shaparenko headed in.
But Liverpool’s Solanke won it with two minutes left when he nodded Chilwell’s cross into the bottom corner.