Connolly sinks Dutch

Callum Connolly’s first-ever England goals helped fire his side to a 3-1 victory over Holland at the JD Stadium in Bury on a night the Everton youngster will never forget.

Having pounced on a loose ball in the first half, the left-back found himself in the box again late on as he sealed his brace, that coming after Dominic Solanke had grabbed a second for the Three Lions in a brilliant performance by Neil Dewsnip’s side.

The head coach began with only four of the players who started on Wednesday, Adam Armstrong, Taylor Moore, Callum Connolly and skipper Ryan Ledson. It was a special evening for Chelsea defender Jake Clarke-Salter who was handed his first international start in the heart of the defence.

England 3-1 Netherlands

U18s International Match
Friday 5 September 2014
JD Stadium, Bury FC
Attendance 2,579

With the England band in attendance whipping up the crowd, the atmosphere was lively under floodlights, as was the match action.

Some tough tackles were going in early, Ledson and Jonjoe Kenny, moved from his usual position of full-back into midfield, stamping their authority early on. And it was Kenny who created the first chance of the match on seven minutes, as his 30-yard pass pierced the Dutch defence and sent Armstrong away. The Newcastle striker saw his strike saved by the goalkeeper, and Solanke’s follow-up was blocked on the line.

Solanke thought he had another opening on 20 minutes, forcing Calvin Verdonk into a back pass with some fine pressing play. The visiting captain looked to have underhit his pass as Solanke tore down on the keeper, but just missed out as the shot-stopper won the tackle with the Chelsea striker 10 yards out.

England were controlling possession with the only effort of note from the Dutch being a long ranger from Gustavo Hamer that ended up rolling to Freddie Woodman’s feet.

On 34 minutes Josh Onomah broke forward from midfield before being hauled down by Hamer 25 yards out on the left. Ledson whipped in the free-kick to the edge of the six-yard box, and Van Osch punched it straight into Clarke-Salter, but luckily for him the ball rebounded wide for a goal-kick.

A further chance for the Young Lions came on 40 minutes, Sheyi Ojo stinging the keepers’ hands with a left-footed drive from the angle of the area, and Verdonk whizzed one wide from 30 yards for the visitors as it looked like it would be goalless at the break – but England would get their reward before the whistle.

With 42 minutes on the clock, Ojo sent a corner deep towards the back post, and Taylor Moore’s headed knockdown was pounced on by Everton defender Callum Connolly from four yards to score his first goal for his country.

No changes were made at the break, and it was quite a subdued start to the second half as Dewsnip’s side remained in control without threatening – until Onomah came to life on 56 minutes to supply Solanke.

The Tottenham midfielder broke forward, forcing the visiting defence to retreat, and he played the ball into a gap that had appeared between the full-back and his centre backs for Solanke to run on to. The forward’s first effort was saved, but he made no mistake as he finished at the second time of asking.

It was almost three moments later as Armstrong rounded the keeper, but he took it too wide as his effort was blocked from an acute angle, and Onomah rattled the crossbar with the follow-up.

England were completely in control, but a moment’s lapse in concentration presented Holland with a chance to get back into the game – and they took it, as Alessio da Cruz unleashed a thunderbolt from 20 yards to punish some hesitant defending on 62 minutes.

For the following few minutes England looked a little nervy, but this was a night that belonged to left-back Connolly. The youngster from Merseyside was to seal a dream evening with 14 minutes remaining.

Substitute Josh Sims beat his man down the right near the by-line and squared it across the six-yard box for Connolly once again to show off his poaching instincts – and he made no mistake to seal his double.

With four minutes remaining the two-goal hero almost entered dreamland, bombing forward to support an attack and beating the offside trap to meet a Sims through-ball, but as his team-mates and the crowd held their breath for a hat-trick, a sigh of frustration rang out around the JD Stadium as the keeper spoiled the party by saving.

Nevertheless, this is a night to remember for the Everton youngster.

England (4-3-3): 1 Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United); 5 Tafari Moore (Arsenal), 7 Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea), 6 Taylor Moore (RC Lens), 3 Callum Connolly (Everton); 9 Ryan Ledson (C), 8 Jonjoe Kenny (Everton), 12 Josh Onomah (Tottenham Hotspur); 15 Dominic Solanke (Chelsea), 16 Adam Armstrong (Newcastle United), 17 Sheyi Ojo (Liverpool)

Substitutes: 4 Dael Fry (Middlesbrough) for Clarke-Salter (63), 18 Josh Sims (Southampton) for Onomah (70), 19 Demetri Mitchell (Manchester United) for Ojo (89), 10 Callum Cooke (Middlesbrough) for Armstrong (89), 2 Mandela Egbo (Crystal Palace) for Connolly (89)

Substitutes not used: 13 Sam Howes (West Ham United), 11 Lewis Cook (Leeds United)

Goals: Connolly (42, 76), Solanke (56)

Head coach: Neil Dewsnip

Holland (4-3-3): 16 Yanick van Osch, 12 Julian Lelieveld, 14 Hidde Ter Avest, 15 Mauro Savastano, 4 Calvin Verdonk (C), 6 Laros Duarte, 18 Abdelhak Nouri, 7 Gustavo Hamer, 10 Ruben de Jager, 17 Ilias Alhaft, 19 Segun Owobowale

Substitutes: 11 Alessio da Cruz for De Jager (45), 3 Rick van der Meer for Lelieveld (74), 8 Marlon Slabbekoorn for Hamer (74), 9 Martijn Berden for Alhaft (74)

Substitutes not used: 1 Stan van Bladeren, 2 Kaan Karabakal, 5 Wellington Verloo, 20 Joris Klein-Holte

Goals: Da Cruz (62)

Head coach: Maarten Stekelenburg