Leeds United’s Eddie Nketiah and Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi stole the show as England Under-21s hammered Austria 5-1 in their European Championship qualifier in Milton Keynes.
Nketiah scored a hat-trick to continue his fine goalscoring start to the season, but it was Hudson-Odoi who was the real star at Stadium MK. The 18-year-old was making his first competitive start for the Young Lions and it will surely be his last as he scored two scintillating first-half goals.
Hudson-Odoi was involved with Aidy Boothroyd’s side as part of his rehab following an Achilles injury, but it was clear he was a step above this level and seems certain to be back with the senior squad for next month’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Arsenal striker Nketiah, on loan at Leeds, also bagged a first-half brace and completed his treble after the break to take his tally to 10 in 13 games for club and country as he continues to make a name for himself – even if he did miss a late penalty.
The foundations of the win were laid with a brilliant opening 45 minutes – a barrage of pace, physicality and intent – and the three points were enough to send England top of Group 3.
Austria, who won their first three games, did deny their hosts a clean sheet after break as Christoph Baumgartner headed home, but there was no way back for them.
England surged ahead after 12 minutes, Lloyd Kelly pinged an inch-perfect cross-field ball to Max Aarons who attacked the space down the right and centred for Hudson-Odoi to lash home.
The Young Lions doubled their lead just before the half-hour as Nketiah hooked home from a corner. The 20-year-old grabbed his second 11 minutes later as he headed home Dwight McNeil’s inviting cross.
A brilliant opening 45 minutes was capped off in eye-catching style as Hudson-Odoi made it four with a fine goal, running the length of the field before finding the top corner from 20 yards.
A rare attack from the visitors in the 66th minute ensured there would be no clean sheet as Baumgartner headed home from close range, but England finished on a high as Nketiah took the matchball home.