Keith Downing’s England side got off to a superb start in their European U19 Championship campaign yesterday, as goals from Ryan Sessegnon and Mason Mount guided The Three Lions to a 0-2 victory over Bulgaria.
It was to be a dream start to the tournament for Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount as he put England ahead in the first minute of the game. A cross was driven in low by winger Dijon Sterling and the 18-year-old was on hand to turn the ball into the net and put Keith Downing’s men ahead. However, the Bulgarian’s reacted quickly and the England defence were soon on the back foot. The men in green and white were soon nearly level as centre back Petko Hristov rose for a header, but it was a combination of England keeper and defender who cleared the ball off the line.
On a very hot day in Tbilisi water breaks were frequent and this helped to disturb any hint of a comeback from the young Bulgarian’s. However, another thorn in Bulgaria’s side was the super form of England keeper Aaron Ramsdale. The 19-year-old was on hand to deny Ivan Tivel on the 20-minute mark and Petko Hristov in the 35th minute and even when the shot stopper did miss the ball, Kaloyan Krastev could not capitalise on an empty net for Bulgaria. However, there was to be one final chance in the half for the No 16, as a deep ball was swung into the England area Krastev found himself in a good position, but he could not direct his header on target. England would hold a slender advantage as the half-time whistle blew, but Bulgaria were edging closer and closer to a leveller.
Just like in the first half, it would prove to be a dream start in the second half for England and by the 48th minute it was 2-0. Young forward Ben Brereton played an exquisite ball into Fulham man Ryan Sessegnon, who calmly finished low past Dimitar Sheytanov under pressure from two defenders. The goal would prove to be a real sucker-punch for the Bulgarian’s, who immediately opted for two pairs off fresh legs in the form of attacking players Georgi Yanev and Stanislav Ivanov. The double change did little to bolster the tired youngsters and it could have been three for England when Brereton broke through, but the Nottingham Forest man could not finish from a tight angle.
Trevor Chalobah was soon running the show for The Three Lions as the Chelsea man failed to get on the end of a Marcus Edwards free-kick, but then made a key block to deny Yanev at the other end. As the game ebbed and flowed on, no real chances of note occurred and England were left waiting for the inevitable Bulgaria push to salvage an unlikely point. As Keith Downing was making conservative substitutions, Angel Stoykov was rallying his men for a final assault.
Georgi Yanev tried his luck from distance with ten minutes to play, but the 19-year-old’s effort sailed over the bar. However, Bulgaria were to be presented with one final chance that fell to skipper Ivaylo Naydenov, but the Levski striker could only send his header looping over the bar. The Three Lions saw out the closing stages under no real threat from their opponents and after referee Ola Hobber Nilsen blew the full-time whistle, England had cruised to an opening victory over a deflated Bulgarian side.
Just like with group A, the Match Day One winners of group B will face each other in Tbilisi in two days-time and the losers will clash on the same day in Gori. So, will The Three Lions be able to roar again against an in-form Dutch side on Thursday? And will Bulgaria seize their chance to bounce back against a deflated German side in Match Day Two?