England Under-20s progressed to the U20 World Cup semi-finals as a Dominic Solanke winner dumped Mexico Under-20s out in the last eight of the tournament.
The Three Lions will now take face Italy on Thursday in the semi-finals, after the young Azzurri beat Zambia U-20s 3-2 in extra time.
This is just the third time England have reached the semi-finals of the U20 World Cup and the first time since 1993, when the team finished third.
Meanwhile Mexico’s quarter-final curse continues, as they have now lost six of their last seven quarter-final fixtures in this competition.
England started the match brightly, with Everton’s Ademola Lookman looking menacing in the early goings. Led by captain and £6 million Bournemouth man Lewis Cook, England looked to play on the front foot in the first 15 minutes but failed to fashion any clear cut chances.
However, as the half went on, Mexico grew into the game, and it was Mexico who created the first real opportunity of the game.
A poor clearance from Newcastle United ‘keeper Freddie Woodman fell to Alan Cervantes. The Mexican captain played in winger Carlos Uriel Atuna, who cut the ball back to the penalty spot for Paolo Yrziar. The forward couldn’t quite get the ball under his control and was ultimately foiled by Middlesbrough centre back Dael Fry.
Adam Armstrong had the game’s first shot on target after being played in by new Liverpool signing, Solanke, and the Newcastle forward forced a good save out of Mexican shot-stopper Abraham Romero – who closed the angle well.
Mexico then had their first attempt on goal as Woodman had to be at full stretch to parry Yrizar’s attempt out of harm’s way, though the two teams went into the break at 0-0 as the opening half lulled by without any clear opportunities.
Mexico rattled after the break
England began the first-half well and started the second in the same manner. This time, however, England were rewarded for their ambition.
Just two minutes into the second-half, the Mexican defence switched off momentarily - which allowed Cook to find Solanke with a superb ball. Solanke finished coolly beyond Romero, who got a piece of the ball but was unable to prevent it hitting the back of the net.
Mexico were reeling from England’s relentless tempo after the break and were almost caught out once again.
The Mexicans tried to play out of the back but played the ball to straight to Cook, who found Kieran Dowell with another intelligent pass, and he played a dangerous ball into the box.
Dowell’s cross, via a few unfortunate ricochets off the Mexican defence, was cleared off the line by right-back Joaquin Esquville.
England continued their onslaught to no avail, as Tottenham’s Josh Onomah hit the post after the faintest of touches by Romero and England were left wondering how they hadn’t scored a second.
A response from Mexico
Mexico, like in the first-half, grew back into the game. Theybegan to control possession and tried to pull themselves back into the game.
England’s Woodman was plunged into action. The 20 year-old cleared a Cervantes free-kick, only for it to fall to Atuna, who had a dip from 35 yards out that had Woodman scrambling.
Yrziar then forced a good block from Woodman at point-blank range following another Mexican attack.
Despite controlling possession, Mexico couldn’t find the equaliser. Striker Ronaldo Cisneros, who has a record of eight goals in nine U-20 games, fluffed his lines in the closing stages, as he lost his footing just 11 yards out.
Onomah sees red
The game was marred by a controversial sending off. Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Josh Onomah was harshly sent off in the 71st minute for a second bookable offence.
The 19-year-old impressed for the Three Lions and can count himself unlucky to have been dismissed.
Onomah could argue his first booking was harsh, considering replays showed he got the ball in the challenge tackle. However, the second booking was a poor decision.
Onomah advanced with the ball at his feet and accidentally trod on the defenders foot. The Video Assistant Referee, which has been trialled in the competition, was useless in a decision that should have been overturned.
Can England start to dream?
England have never progressed beyond the semi-finals and it will be no easy task against Italy on Thursday. Manager Paul Simpson will also have to contend without the classy Onomah who, alongside Cook, was sensational in the middle of the park.
With traditional powerhouses Argentina, France and Germany all out, England can be considered one of the favourites from the final four.
Also in England’s favour, is the fact they have less minutes in their legs. Both Italy and Uruguay have already played extra-time, whilst Venezuela have had to play two sets of extra time in their route to the semis.