Leeds United striker Eddie Nketiah scored two goals as England Under-21s began their Euro 2021 qualifying campaign with a 3-2 victory in Turkey.
Aidy Boothroyd’s team suffered frustration in the summer as they were knocked out of the European Championship in the group stages and it looked like that feeling might endure on Friday night, despite a largely new crop of prospects given a chance to impress.
Just six members of the squad for this month’s qualifiers have previously played for the Young Lions – Nketiah one of them.
The striker put England ahead and, although Turkey turned the game around, Nketiah – on loan at Elland Road from Arsenal – and Reiss Nelson struck in quick succession to secure the win.
In the build up to the match Boothroyd was bullish about the job he has done bringing players through and said he was relishing the next two years with a new squad, and in Izmit there were signs why that would be the case.
England started well and went ahead after just four minutes following a good move involving Steven Sessegnon and Phil Foden down the left side of the penalty area.
Foden’s low cross was missed by two Turkish defenders allowing Nketiah to stab the ball home from seven yards out.
Nelson had an even clearer opportunity to score in the first half but the teams went into the interval level after Dogukan Sinik raced clear and scored after 25 minutes.
England made a sluggish start to the second half and they paid the price six minutes after the restart. A well-worked corner saw Mert Muldur get away from his marker and his free run to the near post saw him flick the ball past former Sheffield United goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale.
Now behind, Boothroyd’s side were struggling defensively and getting turned around in midfield too easily as Turkey sensed they might be able to put the game beyond England.
However, two goals in as many minutes turned the match on its head.
Foden was the architect again, darting goalwards before threading a lovely pass to Nketiah just inside the penalty area and the on-loan Leeds forward provided a tidy finish.
Immediately afterwards, Nelson netted what proved to be the winning goal with a low shot that may have taken a deflection off a Turkish defender.
The hosts had a goal ruled out for offside as they searched for an equaliser but England held on for the victory to justify Boothroyd’s pre-match optimism.
Brennan Johnson marked his Wales Under-21 debut with the only goal as his side beat Belgium 1-0 in a European Championship qualifier at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground.
Wales took the lead after just five minutes through Nottingham Forest midfielder Johnson.
MK Dons defender Regan Poole went close with a header two minutes later before Barry Town goalkeeper George Ratcliffe denied Belgium with a fine save from a corner. Johnson missed from close range with a chance to double his side’s lead.