England U21s opened their European Championship campaign with a testing 0-0 draw with Sweden at the Kielce City Stadion in Poland.
England were the better of the two sides in the first half, but bad misses from Tammy Abraham meant they couldn’t break the deadlock.
Sweden improved immensely in the second period and should have won the game with a late penalty, but Jordan Pickford kept out Linus Wahlqvist’s poor effort to give England an opening day point.
England’s young lions started well and looked confident from the kick-off, but should have been in front after ten minutes. James Ward-Prowse swung in a corner that bounced nicely for Tammy Abraham in the penalty box, but the Chelsea striker blasted well over on the volley when he should have at least hit the target from eight yards out.
Sweden took a while to get into the game, but once they started to dominate possession, they proved their attacking threat. Wahlqvist played a nice one-two with Pawel Cibicki and strode into the England penalty area, but the right-back scooped over from a good position. Up the other end, Jacob Murphy collected Abraham’s knock-down and rifled a shot at goal from 25 yards, but it flashed just over to the relief of the large Swedish faithful in the stadium.
The final chance of the first half would also fall England’s way and it was another bad miss from the usually dependable Abraham. Alfie Mawson won the flick-on that fell right into the former Bristol City striker’s path, but Abraham flicked over with an acrobatic volley to the frustration of Aidy Boothroyd on the England bench.
The second half was played with a much higher-tempo as Sweden went about trying to win the game. They were desperately unlucky not to be in front after 57 minutes when Cibicki curled towards the top corner from 30 yards, but the ball thumped back off the crossbar with Pickford well beaten. It was a let-off for England, but they reacted by creating another good chance at the other end.
Ward-Prowse’s corners were proving to be a problem for the Swedish defence and a clever routine meant Lewis Baker could strike at goal from 15 yards, but he scooped well over when it looked easier to hit the target. The Chelsea man scored seven goals in his last 13 games, but didn’t show the composure you would have expected from his form.
The game was proving to be an end-to-end battle as minutes after Carlos Strandberg hit the side netting from a following counter-attack for Sweden, England were denied by the woodwork. Ben Chilwell’s shot took a massive deflection off of Filip Dagerstal and looped into the air, but clipped the crossbar on its way over.
With the clock ticking down, the chances kept coming. Anton Cajtoft made a tremdnous save to keep out Ward-Prowse’s fixing free-kick, but it was a missed opportunity for Sweden that will take the headlines in the 81st minute.
Wahlqvist won the penalty for the Swedes after Chilwell was adjudged to be out of control with the sliding tackle, but the defender’s spot-kick was poor as he chipped down the middle and Pickford made a simple save to keep it goalless. It may have been justice done for England as the awarding of the penalty was harsh against Chilwell, but Sweden will know they had a golden opportunity to win the game and Wahlqvist wasted it.