There were contrasting victories for Poland and hosts Italy as the summer’s U21 European Championships got underway this evening – nine goals from the opening two games!
Arsenal defender Krystian Bielik, fresh off the back of an excellent loan spell with Charlton, impressed and also got on the scoresheet during Poland’s surprise 3-2 win over Belgium in the early kick-off.
Belgium were the better team early on and broke the deadlock after 16 minutes – Toulouse forward Aaron Leya making no mistake from close-range after good work down the flank by Huddersfield’s Isaac Mbenza.
Their lead lasted all of ten minutes though, as midfielder Szymon Zurkowski tried his luck from distance and watched as it swerved low towards the bottom corner. Questions could be asked of Genk goalkeeper Nordin Jackers, who was caught unaware and ultimately stunned, though it was a good strike in fairness.
Poland with ultimate response, surprising opening round win
Jackers could do little to stop Bielik from giving Poland the lead seven minutes after the restart, as the 21-year-old powered home from the game’s first corner, towering above his marker and wheeling away to celebrate as his effort cannoned in off the crossbar.
With the game finely poised at 2-1, Zurkowski was again at the forefront as Poland extended their lead with ten minutes left. He left his marker for dead on the edge of the area, weaved beyond another challenge before teeing up Legia Warsaw midfielder Sebastian Szymanski, who made no mistake to double their advantage.
Club Brugge midfielder Dion Cools reduced arrears with a close-range headed strike of his own with just over five minutes to play, but Belgium’s intensified pressure ultimately proved futile as they suffered a surprise opening round defeat.
Then in the evening’s late kick-off, hosts Italy recovered from a one-goal deficit to beat one of the tournament favourites Spain with a comprehensive 3-1 win.
It was a moment of magic that broke the deadlock, as Real Madrid midfielder Dani Ceballos struck into the top corner from distance after just eight minutes – with an effort similar to an excellent finish of his at this stage two years ago.
Chiesa stars as Italy recover to win opener
Moments of genuine quality were admittedly few and far between during a tense affair, littered with successive fouls in a stop-start affair. That didn’t faze Fiorentina winger Federico Chiesa though, as he responded accordingly after 35 minutes.
An excellent touch and marauding run down the byline saw him shape to deliver a ball into the area, though his final pass was a cross-cum-shot which deceived a misplaced Unai Simon and crept in at the near post.
Chiesa was on hand to complete his brace shortly after the hour mark after Nicolo Barella’s shot deflected into his path, before VAR added salt in the Spanish wounds – Roma’s Lorenzo Pellegrini coolly slotting home late on after Valencia’s Carlos Soler needlessly upended him.
Monday’s fixtures are as follows:
New Real Madrid signing Luka Jovic will be expected to start for Serbia, as they face Austria in the early KO at 17.30 (UK time). Then, defending champions Germany begin their tournament with a tricky test against Denmark at 8pm.