Paraguay under-23 0-4 England under-21: Loftus-Cheek stars as Young Lions run riot

The Chelsea midfielder registered two goals and an assist as Gareth Southgate's men all but secured their spot in the final of this year's Toulon Tournament.

Paraguay under-23 0-4 England under-21: Loftus-Cheek stars as Young Lions run riot
Lewis Baker is mobbed by teammates after breaking the deadlock with a super strike. (Photo: FA)
0 4
Paraguay: Vento, Ferreira, Benitez, Aldereté, Jimenez, Aranda, Vieira, Villasanti (Britez 60'), Diaz, Colman (Rodriguez 41'), Baez (Bareiro 61').
England: Pickford, Iorfa, Chambers, Hause, Chilwell (Targett 39'), Chalobah, Ward-Prowse, Loftus-Cheek (Swift 71'), Baker, Redmond (Palmer 68'), Watmore (Grealish 61').
SCORE: 0-1, Baker 34'. 0-2, Loftus-Cheek 45'. 0-3, Loftus-Cheek 59'. 0-4, Redmond 65'.
REFEREE: Nikola Popov (BUL). Booked: Jimenez 46', Diaz 48', Benitez 51', Hause 68', Chalobah 70'.

England under-21s stormed three points clear at the top of Group A on Wednesday night, beating second-placed Paraguay 4-0 after a splendid second half.

The deadlock was broken before half time through Lewis Baker's sumptuous hit, but it was after the break that the Young Lions turned on the style.

Despite a tough start to the game, the win was relatively easy work in the end, with man of the match Ruben Loftus-Cheek following up his assist for the first goal with a quick fire second half brace - goal number two a lovely chip.

Nathan Redmond made it a rout on 65 minutes when he added a fourth, and this was more than enough for England to all but seal a spot in the final of this year's Toulon Tournament.

The Young Lions lead at the break

First against second in the group, England came into this game looking to extend their lead at the summit to three points - not just on goal difference - but found themselves facing a lively attacking team with plenty of technical talent.

They struggled to tame their opposition too, and needed Jordan Pickford to produce a big and brave point blank save to deny Matias Villasanti Rolon in the opening stages.

However, they would start to find their feet in the game and were particularly potent out wide - Redmond on one flank, Duncan Watmore on the other, both full of running.

Just before the half hour mark, Redmond wasn't far away from breaking the deadlock either. Racing down the right, he was picked out by Loftus-Cheek and arrowed a shot goalwards only to see it fizz a few inches wide.

In hindsight, a ball into the advancing James Ward-Prowse might have been a better option, not just by Redmond but by Loftus-Cheek too.

However, a few minutes later, this missed opportunity didn't matter as Baker opened the scoring. It was a terrific goal too; Loftus-Cheek cutting the ball back to his Chelsea teammate, with Watmore dummying to allow the 21-year-old to pick out the top corner emphatically.

With just over five minutes until the break, it was the perfect time to score as well, meaning England led at the interval after a well-contested 40 minutes which was difficult for both sides going forward.

Baker celebrates his second goal of the tournament. (Photo: FA)
Baker (left) celebrates his second goal of the tournament with the man that assisted it, Loftus-Cheek (right). (Photo: FA)

Interval serves as no interruption

Half time looked like it had come at a bad time for the Young Lions if anything, with them having a spring in their step at the end of the first period, pushing Paraguay further and further back with it. 

However, they started the second half strong regardless, with Loftus-Cheek fashioning a good opportunity on the edge of the box but seeing his shot blocked at the last second.

He would get the goal that his performance deserved moments later though, doubling England's lead. After out-muscling Franco Edgar Benitez, the midfielder side-stepped the challenge of Arturo Aranda Barreto and coolly slotted home from close range to put the Young Lions in a comfortable position.

With their tails up, Gareth Southgate's side were after a third to wrap things up but found Alan Vento Gomez in their way with a splendid double save just before the hour - first denying Redmond and then Watmore.

Yet, number three came from the recycled ball, with Watmore playing a lovely weighted pass to meet the run of Loftus-Cheek, who's cute chip got the better of the Paraguayan stopper as it sailed into the top corner.

The fourth soon followed, with Redmond's footwork leaving Benitez bamboozled as the Norwich City man rifled his shot into the far corner.

Southgate's men couldn't add to the scoreline in the 15 minutes that remained but they didn't need to, with them all but in the final now after three wins from three.