England under-21s recovered from an early set back to hit Guinea for seven goals on Monday night, which included braces from Jack Grealish and Cauley Woodrow.
Guinea took the lead inside of the first minute, but the Young Lions romped to an emphatic win in the end as they maintained their 100 per cent record at this year's Toulon Tournament.
An unexpected lead
It was the unlikeliest of starts as Guinea took an early lead. Smart build up from a free kick saw Fode Guirassy run deep and square the ball into the box, with Mamadou Guarassy missing his kick but Thierno Diallo eagerly waiting behind him. Diallo's miss-kick then flew into the back of the net, the ball deflecting off of his shin to completely wrong foot Angus Gunn in the England goal. Guinea were a goal to the good inside of 50 seconds.
Gareth Southgate’s team didn’t let the goal faze them though and made sure to get themselves on the front foot straight after the restart, playing one and two-touch to get the ball moving down the flanks as quickly as possible. Guinea’s five-man midfield struggled to deal with the likes of Nathan Redmond and Matt Grimes on the wide right.
Grimes worked it quickly for Woodrow, the Fulham man shooting from point-blank range, only for Ousmane Doucoure to produce a smart reaction save to deny him.
But again England came down the right; Redmond with a lay off for Woodrow, the no.9 with a deep cross, Grealish taking the ball on the half-volley at the back-post and sweeping the ball into the far corner beyond Doucoure. With the scores back level and their tails up, England went hunting for a quick-fire second, and more swift passing on the right saw the ball centred for Redmond, but the Norwich City man could only smash the ball against the post.
The game started to ware on, England not as fluent in possession as the ball bounced and bobbled over the playing surface. Guinea, on the other hand, were breaking forward at every opportunity, with Abdoulaye Cissé using his pace to good effect to take the ball deep, but he was unable to really penetrate the backline.
Goals every five minutes
All of a sudden, the goals started to come for the Young Lions. Grimes set John Swift off with a long diagonal ball, and the Chelsea loanee won a penalty as a Guinean defender was adjudged to have handled the ball in the box. Doucoure got a hand to it, but was unable to stop James Ward-Prowse’s resulting penalty and England led for the first time in the match.
Despite their possession and smart use of the width of the pitch, the Young Lions kept favouring shots from distance, most flying harmlessly over or wide, but when the ball came to Redmond 30-yards out, the Canary let fly. The young attacker striking the ball as sweetly as he’d have liked, swerving one way then the other, the ball rustling against the inside of the Guinea net for the third time inside of the first half.
England looked to have settled again and started moving the ball around with more ease, Redmond with a diagonal through ball for Woodrow, back to Redmond and through to Grealish near the back-post, the Villa midfielder finding the far corner once more. The goal was to be the last action of the half - in the space of 40 minutes England had gone behind, resorted parity then hit their opponents for a further three and took a commanding 4-1 lead into the break.
A subdued second half
It was a quick start to the second-half, Salimou Toure booked moments in after a heavy challenge, gifting England an early free kick just outside if the box. Swift and Grimes both stood over the dead-ball, with the former looping the ball over the wall and Doucoure parrying it away from danger.
A lovely ball from Swift then saw Grealish with the ball on his toe just outside of the box, the Villa youngster cutting in, on a hat-trick and unselfishly laying off for Woodrow. The centre-forward hit a curling shot that Doucoure got a big glove to, with the ball coiling up and rebounding into the net off of the top of the head of a confused Mohamed Toure.
The substitutes continued to flow, six new pairs on legs all on for the second-half, Southgate keen to keep his squad fresh over such a short and thankless tournament.
Another smooth counter attack from the Young Lions, the ball sent away faster than Guinean legs could chase, xzs Grealish central in front of the box, still awaiting a third for his hat trick. However, he again fed Woodrow on his left, desperate for his industrious teammate to get onto the scoresheet. This time Woodrow went low, striking the ball through Doucoure’s legs to open his England account.
England continued to attack, although with less intensity and frequency as the was game long over. Guinea produced dogged defending to thwart them where possible and the Young Lions were happy enough to let Guinea have the ball, with white shirts back to quash any real danger.
There was still time for another though. A hopeful ball was sent long by substitute Nathaniel Chalobah for fellow sub Duncan Watmore to chase, and after beating his marker to the ball the Sunderland forward showed presence of mind to roll it across the box for Woodrow, who added his second as the clock ticked into the 73 minute.
Goals galore but little learned
It was a game Southgate’s Young Lions would have enjoyed immensely, but whilst they did play well, there is little that can be garnered from the win against such lowly opposition.
Grealish and Redmond performed expertly and there was some smart link-up play, especially on the right wing. The team were going forward, getting into dangerous areas and generally looked hungry, and that will please their manager.
At the back, they recovered well from conceding early, and the defence did enough to keep Guinea at bay, restricting their opponents to speculative shots. Nonetheless, the real test is yet to come.