England Under-21s beaten by Croatia
England Under-21s slipped to a 2-1 defeat by Croatia in their final warm-up match ahead of this summer’s European Championship.
Lee Carsley’s side were bidding to sign off for Georgia with a fourth friendly win out of four, having beaten Germany, Italy and, on Saturday, thumping France 4-0.
But Carsley changed all 10 outfield players for their last tune-up match and they had only a late Morgan Gibbs-White consolation from the penalty spot to show for a ragged display at Craven Cottage.
It is not just the senior England side who have recent history with the Croatians; the Under-21s were on course for the quarter-finals at the last Euros when a last-gasp wonder-strike from full-back Domagoj Bradaric knocked them out on goal difference despite a 2-1 win.
Curtis Jones scored in that match, and the Liverpool youngster had England’s first shot on target repelled by Croat keeper Dominik Kotarski from a cross by Manchester City forward Cole Palmer.
The lively Palmer then teed up Tommy Doyle, who could not recreate his spectacular long-range FA Cup winner for Sheffield United against Blackburn nine days ago with his shot this time flying over the crossbar.
Instead Croatia took the lead in the 34th minute after debutant Rico Lewis was booked for bringing down Lukas Kacavenda outside the box.
Martin Baturina stepped up to curl a superb 20-yard free-kick inside James Trafford’s near post.
Carsley made just one change at half-time, replacing Bolton’s on-loan Manchester City keeper Trafford and handing West Brom’s Josh Griffiths a debut.
But Griffith’s first task was to face a penalty after Leicester full-back Luke Thomas clumsily brought down Matija Frigan in the area.
Dion Drena Beljo, who plays for Augsburg in the Bundesliga, coolly sent Griffiths the wrong way from the spot to double Croatia’s lead.
Griffiths did well to limit the damage with a smart point-blank save to deny Kacavenda and another fine stop to keep out Gabriel Vidovic.
For the hosts, Palmer and captain Jacob Ramsey both stung the hands of Kotarski who then pulled off a stunning save to keep out a header from substitute Gibbs-White.
England finally got on the scoresheet four minutes from time when Kotarski tripped Gibbs-White in the box, the Nottingham Forest man tucking away the spot-kick.
But, with England senior boss Gareth Southgate watching from the stands, the hosts were unable to find an equaliser on a frustrating night in west London.