England Under-21s reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2023 as Group C winners with a comfortable 2-0 victory against Israel in Georgia. Anthony Gordon’s header put them in front after 16 minutes in Georgia before Emile Smith Rowe doubled the lead in the second half.
Lee Carsley’s side are now guaranteed top spot before they meet Germany in the final group game on Wednesday. England defeated the Czech Republic in their opening match, but the Czechs bounced back to beat Germany 2-1 on Sunday.
“The result was really important for us, we spoke about it beforehand, making sure we performed and we spoke about mentality and having that ability to find a way to win,” said Carsley. “It was a good performance, but there is a lot more to come from this team.”
After starting brightly, England nearly took the lead in Kutaisi after some quick passing around the box was finished by Smith Rowe, but his back-heeled effort was ruled out for offside. They continued to attack, with Gordon firing a promising ball into the box and Curtis Jones’s shot was well defended by Gil Cohen.
The dominant start was rewarded with quarter of an hour gone when a brilliant cross from Morgan Gibbs‑White on the left found Gordon in the box and the Newcastle forward nodded the ball into the bottom corner.
England were in charge but Israel sparked into life in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Dor Turgeman had the first opportunity with his header going just wide and Ethane Azoulay had a better chance in stoppage time when his direct free-kick from the edge of the area was saved by James Trafford.
England had an opportunity to double their lead three minutes after the break when Gibbs‑White threaded a great ball through to Noni Madueke, but his effort flew wide.
Daniel Peretz made a fine punch to clear the danger from Gibbs-White’s curling free-kick before a solid spell of pressure from Israel saw Karm Jaber’s effort go wide.
England eventually earned their second through Smith Rowe in the 68th minute with an excellent finish from the Arsenal forward, drilled low into the corner. They continued to push and the substitute Cameron Archer nearly made it three, but Peretz made a solid save from a tight angle.
A great run from Liverpool’s Harvey Elliott down the centre found Cole Palmer on the right, but his shot was easily blocked and cleared by the Israel defence before Yoav Hofmeister made an excellent challenge to prevent Jacob Ramsey’s attempted shot in the final minutes of the contest.