Norwich City winger Nathan Redmond scores hat-trick for England Under-21s
Norwich City winger Nathan Redmond tormented Wales for the second time this season last night as England took another giant stride towards next year’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship finals with a 3-1 victory.
The runaway Group One leaders moved nine points clear of second-placed Moldova, who have three games left and hold a vastly inferior goal difference, after Redmond – in his first action since City’s relegation was confirmed - fired a hat-trick, although his third goal appeared to go in after brushing team-mate Saldo Berahino.
The 20-year-old’s Liberty Stadium treble came less than three months after he scored the only goal when England beat Wales in Derby.
And it left Wales with little chance of progressing into the play-offs, despite Gwion Edwards breaching England’s defence to draw his team level just two minutes after Redmond put England ahead. It was a rare goal for England to concede during manager Gareth Southgate’s reign, but they went on to dominate proceedings as Redmond scored his second before hitting a post midway through the second half and then completing his hat-trick through an angled strike in stoppage time.
England made a bright start, controlling possession and territory to create chances in the opening 10 minutes for Tom Ince, Danny Ings, Jesse Lingard and Redmond as Wales received ominous early warning signs about the quality of Southgate’s team. An immaculate playing surface was made even slicker by occasional showers and that perfectly suited England’s impressive passing game, with Wales finding themselves stretched on both flanks.
And the deadlock was broken after 18 minutes when Redmond ran a retreating Wales defence ragged, cutting inside from a wide position and shooting past Wales goalkeeper Connor Roberts at his near post.
But Wales responded superbly and, after Bristol City striker Wes Burns saw a shot saved by England captain Jack Butland, the home side drew level just two minutes after Redmond’s strike when Edwards pounced from a corner. The Swansea player rose high above England defenders to power a header beyond Butland as the visitors conceded only a second goal from eight starts in their European qualifying pool.
England were unquestionably rattled by Wales’ recovery and Butland was soon called upon to make another save after Lloyd Isgrove homed in on goal.
Both sides put a clear emphasis on attack, with England going close to regaining the lead through Ings and Lingard, but they were denied by Roberts, who then turned away a powerful Luke Garbutt shot.
Redmond, though, proved England’s inspiration again seven minutes before half-time when he restored their advantage after firing past Roberts from outside the box.
The second half, much of it accompanied by torrential downpours, saw England tighten their grip as Roberts was kept busy stopping a number of short and long-range efforts, while substitute Berahino slid a good chance wide.
Wales offered little in comparison, often being outmuscled and overpowered in midfield, where Lingard proved a dominant force, although Southgate would have been disappointed that his players did not convert more than two of the numerous chances they created.
It was a relatively quiet night in defence, though, with Butland not troubled during a second period when his only worthwhile piece of action was to collect a harmless Wales corner, and Redmond had the final say with a goal that confirmed another three-point haul.