Jarrad Branthwaite captained The Young Lions to a 3-0 win against Northern Ireland, writes Zoe McGrady at Goodison Park.  

The Everton defender has been a revelation this season and it was fitting that he should be handed the armband to lead out Lee Carsley’s side on his home turf.

Liverpool stars Tyler Morton and Harvey Elliott also caught the eye, both getting on the scoresheet to help England’s bid to finish top of their UEFA EURO21 qualifying group.

Harvey Elliott scored a brace for England U21’s at Goodison Park

The result means they remain in second place on 12 points after Ukraine beat Azerbaijan 1-0 earlier in the evening.

Northern Ireland struggled in the opening minutes as England enjoyed a period of possession. The best of England’s chances came from Chelsea’s Noni Madueke who received the ball just past the halfway line to run into the box before shooting just wide.  

Jay Stansfield had a brilliant chance on 20 minutes, receiving a cross from Elliot only to fire straight into the hands of Josh Clarke from close range.  

It was Liverpool’s Morton, currently on loan at Hull, who opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. On his full U21 debut, the midfielder produced a fantastic strike from 30 yards out leaving the keeper with no chance as it smashed straight down the centre of the goal.

Carsley’s side finished the first half having had 78% possession with Northern Ireland failing to register a shot on target.

England made just one change at the break, taking off Newcastle’s Tino Livramento to make way for Brooke Norton-Cuffy as continued in the same vein as the first half, well organised and controlling possession.

It took just seven minutes for England to double their tally with another Liverpool star getting on the scoresheet. It was Elliot this time with a brilliant curled free kick on the edge of the box. The Reds midfielder seemed to enjoy celebrating on the turf of his club’s rivals.

England Under 21s vs Northern Ireland Under 21s. EURO21 Qualifier.
England controlled the game against Northern Ireland / pic Zoe McGrady

Northern Ireland registered their first shot of the match in the 76th minute for James Trafford to save comfortably.

Elliot got his second of the night with 10 minutes remaining to seal the win for England. A fantastic pass from Morton played Elliott through to coolly chip the the onrushing keeper to cap a memorable night for the youngtser.

The Young Lions now have to wait until March 2024 when their campaign to qualify for EURO21 2025 continues against Azerbaijan.