Northern Ireland found England too hot to handle in a UEFA U21 Euro 2025 qualifier in Liverpool tonight.
Two goals from Harvey Elliott and another from Tyler Morton were enough to secure a comfortable victory for England.
The hosts dominated the game at Goodison Park, creating numerous chances in front of 7,890 fans.
Northern Ireland defended superbly for long spells, but England’s superior attacking prowess told in the end. Their movement and pace were exceptional.
In the fifth minute England attacker Elliott floated in a free-kick to full back Tina Livramento at the back post and he played a dangerous ball back across the face of goal, however Northern Ireland captain Carl Johnston was on hand to clear the danger.
In the early stages of the game England sprayed the ball around neatly but found the hard working Northern Ireland defence and midfield difficult to penetrate.
Johnston produced a timely tackle to nick the ball off England full back Joshua Wilson-Esbrand inside the area as he was about to pull the trigger, while Michael Forbes did well to block a Noni Madueke cross inside the six-yard box. Minutes later Madueke curled an effort inches wide of the post.
Clarke pushed away a snapshot from Jay Stansfield as England turned the screw, while Johnston headed a whipped Livramento cross out for a corner and Elliott curled a shot inches past the upright.
Ruairi McConville, making his first start for the U21s, as well as Forbes, Johnston and Aaron Donnelly dealt superbly with everything that was thrown at them.
However, England eventually found a way past Tommy Wright’s side. On 31 minutes a clearance fell at the feet of tidy midfielder Morton 22 yards out and he pinged the ball into the bottom corner.
Up top Ciaran McGuckin, JJ McKiernan and Justin Devenny worked tirelessly in the green shirt, but the ball would just not stick. England captain Jarrad Branthwaite and fellow centre back Jarell Quansah gave them very little breathing space.
The tricky Madueke nutmegged Johnston inside the area and laid the ball back to Stansfield. His well struck shot flew over the bar.
Terry Devlin produced an excellent block to snuff out a Jamie Bynoe-Gittens effort as England threatened once again just after the restart, and then Hayden Hackney fired a shot over the bar.
On 50 minutes Devlin received a yellow card for tripping Elliott just outside the area. Elliott took the resulting free-kick and produced a lovely curler from 25 yards which whizzed past Clarke to put England two up. It was a sweet strike.
Stansfield dragged a shot wide as England continued to dominate possession. McConville headed a Madueke cross away from the danger zone. Quansah then burst forward and eventually let fly, but Clarke held on to the ball.
Northern Ireland rarely got out of their own half. On 65 minutes Donnelly fired in a cross which was comfortably collected by England keeper James Trafford.
Eight minutes later Elliott and Madueke tormented the Northern Ireland defence once again and Clarke did well to save Madueke’s close range shot.
Branthwaite headed a cross from substitute Tommy Fogarty clear as Northern Ireland launched a rare attack.
In the 79th minute Elliott grabbed his second of the night when he raced through down the middle and neatly lobbed Clarke.
Elliott was denied a hat-trick soon after when Clarke produced an excellent stop to keep out the attacker’s sumptuous volley.
The hosts continued to attack, but had to settle for the 3-0 victory at the home of Everton FC.
England: James Trafford, Tino Livramento, Joshua Wilson-Esbrand, Jarrad Branthwaite (captain), Jarell Quansah, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Tyler Morton, Harvey Elliott, Jay Stansfield, Hayden Hackney, Noni Madueke.
Substitutes: Matthew Cox (GK), Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Jaden Philogene, Charlie Patino, Liam Delap, James McAtee, Brooke Norton-Cuffy, Charlie Cresswell, Samuel Iling-Junior.
Northern Ireland: Josh Clarke, Carl Johnston (captain), Aaron Donnelly, Michael Forbes, Ruairi McConville, Jamie McDonnell, Terry Devlin, Charlie Allen, Ciaran McGuckin, JJ McKiernan, Justin Devenny.
Substitutes: (used) Patrick Kelly, Charlie McCann, Tommy Fogarty, Conor Falls, Barry Baggley; (unused) Fraser Barnsley (GK), Ethan McGee, Darren Robinson, Charlie Lindsay.