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Young Lions held by Croatia to exit Euro 2019 without a win

England Under-21s were pegged back three times.

Reiss Nelson opened the scoring from the spot for England Under-21s against Croatia on Monday. (Nick Potts/PA)
Reiss Nelson opened the scoring from the spot for England Under-21s against Croatia on Monday. (Nick Potts/PA)

England Under-21s wrapped up their nightmare Euro 2019 campaign with a 3-3 draw against Croatia to exit the tournament without a win.

Josip Brekalo struck with eight minutes left as Croatia came from behind three times to deny the Young Lions a morale-boosting victory in Serravalle.

It was more late frustration for Aidy Boothroyd’s side, who conceded nine times in three games – with seven goals coming in the final 14 minutes of matches.

Jonjoe Kenny’s stunner had put the Under-21s 3-2 ahead with 20 minutes left but they had to settle for a point in San Marino.

Reiss Nelson’s penalty and James Maddison’s strike had earlier been cancelled out by excellent goals from Brekalo and Nikola Vlasic.

Neither side could reach the semi-finals after they both lost to France and Romania last week and played out an entertaining Group C dead rubber on Monday.

The point – England’s first – at least helped them avoid finishing bottom of the group but the Young Lions will return home on Tuesday full of regret.

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James Maddison celebrates scoring England’s second goal (Nick Potts/PA)

Collectively they under-performed and leave Italy and San Marino following their worst tournament performance since 2013.

Dean Henderson and Maddison claimed England were better than Romania and France – despite losing to both last week – but on the pitch they never delivered.

England escaped after two minutes when Henderson turned Sandro Kulenovic’s powerful header over the crossbar but they soon took control, edging ahead after 11 minutes.

After conceding three penalties in their first two games, this time it was the Young Lions’ turn when Branimir Kalaica tripped Nelson in the box.

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Jonjoe Kenny (back to camera) celebrates scoring England’s third goal (Nick Potts/PA)

Arsenal forward Nelson – overlooked in the first two games – sent Ivo Grbic the wrong way from the spot for his fourth Under-21 goal.

The recalled Phil Foden kept England moving, his killer pass to Nelson splitting the Croatia defence for the penalty, and continued to call into question Boothroyd’s decision to drop him for the 4-2 Romania defeat on Friday.

The Young Lions were sharper and more adventurous, out passing and out performing their rivals, and Grbic stopped Demarai Gray making it 2-0 after 36 minutes from Tammy Abraham’s neat pass.

But Croatia levelled out of the blue three minutes later when Brekalo cut in from the left and, with Kenny back-peddling, curled the ball into the top corner from 15 yards.

Foden volleyed at Grbic before the break but England regained the lead three minutes after the restart.

Nelson’s cross was only half cleared by Filip Uremovic and Maddison collected the loose ball to rifle in from 12 yards.

England’s lead only lasted 14 minutes when the otherwise impressive Lloyd Kelly lost possession and Kulenovic teed-up former Everton midfielder Vlasic, who coolly found the bottom corner from the edge of the box.

Eight minutes later Kenny fired England ahead again when he drilled in from 25 yards.

But Brekalo completed his brace in the 82nd minute when he rolled the ball under Henderson after being slipped in by Luka Ivanusec.

PA

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