A dominant performance from Aidy Boothroyd’s England U21s was enough to secure a creditable away win over Ukraine’s young stars to extend their lead at the top of Qualifying Group Four for The 2019 UEFA U19 Championship to five points after as many games.
The visitors needed only to strike twice either side of half-time, first through Liverpool starlet Dom Solanke and an own-goal from centre-back Pavlo Lukyanchuk to keep their unbeaten run intact heading into Christmas and condemn Oleksandr Holovko’s men to a stay disappointing fourth place.
From the start in Kiev, Holovko decided on two alterations to the team that drew 1-1 at home to The Netherlands in October as Artem Besyedin and Maksym Lunov were replaced by Volodymyr Shepeliev and Stanislav Bilenkyi.
Also in the home Nation’s Xl were Manchester City prospect Oleksandr Zinchenko, bright young keeper starlet Andriy Lunin and electric right-back Valeriy Luchkevych, all vying to pose a serious threat to The Three Lions’ unflappable form.
Meanwhile, Boothroyd opted for three changes to the side that overcame Andorra 0-1 last month in The Principality.
Coming in was eventual scorer Dominic Solanke, Leicester City star Demarai Gray, and Bournemouth starlet Lewis Cook, they replaced injured New York City man Jack Harrison, and Toffees duo Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tom Davies who was forced out with a knock.
On a chilly evening at The Obolon Arena in Ukraine’s Capital City, it would be the away side who threatened first with Gray cutting in from the left and testing Lunin with a low effort.
Then, it was the turn of Arsenal hopeful Ainsley Maitland-Niles to test the young shot-stopper with a ferocious shot from range, but again, he was up to the task of keeping the ball out.
However, on 16 minutes the Zorya Luhansk man between the sticks was finally beaten, with Kieran Dowell laying the ball off perfectly for Solanke and the former Chelsea star dispatching it with precision into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area.
Shortly after, the hosts would come forward themselves and threaten as The Citizen Zinchenko controlled and volleyed beautifully just wide of Angus Gunn’s left-hand post.
Zinchenko, always the creator for his side, spearheaded the charge for a leveller early in the second period as he slipped in substitute Besyedin, but this time, Gunn saved well to deny him.
But, as they went forward, Ukraine always left themselves vulnerable at the back with Solanke racing away on the break to find Gray on the left.
When he delivered a powerful low cross, Lukyanchuk sliced into his own top corner spectacularly to seal his Nations fate on home turf, a true day to forget for the central defender.
Gray would come close to finding a goal of his own after that as he missed the target twice and Ademola Lookman had a powerful free-kick somehow kept out by Lunin.
The scores would eventually stay the same in Ukraine, leaving The Three Lions to marvel at a tough away trip easily negotiated and the hosts to wonder how they managed to let the game get so far beyond them.
Next up for the young Ukrainians will be a tough trip to the home of third-placed Scotland in Group Four, a tie that is due to be played on Tuesday evening.
Whereas yesterday evening’s victorious encounter was the last action of the year for the young Lions, a thoroughly successful one to say the least for Boothroyd’s Boys, their next fixture will be the home return clash with Ukraine in March.