Folarin Balogun scored on his first start for the England u21s on Thursday night, in a comfortable yet vital win over the Czech Republic.
With the Czech Republic winning all four of their first four Euro u21 qualifiers, whilst England dropped two points against Slovenia, England needed a win on Thursday to stay in touch at the top of the group.
Folarin Balogun was called up for the last couple of international breaks, but he wasn’t given any starts as England u21 boss Lee Carsley opted for Rhian Brewster.
This time around, that wasn’t an option, as Brewster got himself suspended with a red card in the last game. Balogun took his place for his first start with the u21 side.
England raced into a 2-0 lead within 11 minutes, and Balogun had a part to play in the second goal. He played Conor Gallagher in behind for a good chance, and although Gallagher’s shot was saved, it fell to Anthony Gordon to tap in.
Balogun may have been denied an assist on that occasion, but he wasn’t going to be denied a goal. Just before the half-hour mark, he picked up the ball to the right of the area and slid a low finish into the bottom corner for 3-0.
Balogun scores 🏴🇨🇿 pic.twitter.com/VUzuUPvJq8
— Ali8razavi1 (@Aliasgh38158855) November 11, 2021
It was a classic Balogun goal, the kind he scores on a weekly basis for the Arsenal youth teams. The striker ended up playing 77 minutes, taking four shots and creating two chances, as well as completing 81% of his passes.
England didn’t really push on after their fast early start, but they won the match 3-1, enough to leave them two points behind the Czech Republic with a game in hand.
England’s other game of the November break is a friendly match against Georgia. Balogun might get a chance to feature again, but otherwise we’ll likely next see him in action with the Arsenal u23s against Blackburn Rovers on Monday, 22nd November.
It would be great to see Balogun involved with the England youth teams more regularly. Thursday was only his second start for any England team above the u18s, and just his first competitive start, despite his consistently strong form with Arsenal.