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Balogun scores twice as England U21s beat Albania

Folarin Balogun’s double helped fire England Under-21s past Albania to keep their Euro 2023 fate in their own hands.

The Arsenal forward’s second-half brace, either side of a Curtis Jones strike, gave the Young Lions a comfortable 3-0 win in Elbasan.

They endured a frustrating first half but took Albania apart after the break to remain three points behind Group G leaders Czech Republic with two games in hand.

The under-21s travel to the Czech Republic next for a pivotal clash in June, before completing qualification against Albania, Kosovo and Slovenia that month.

The leaders’ earlier 3-0 win in Andorra moved them six points clear before the Young Lions kicked off on Tuesday.

Lee Carsley’s side initially made light of the extra pressure as they dominated but failed to find a breakthrough.

They lacked the early verve of Friday’s 4-1 win over Andorra and, outside the lively Noni Madueke, could not find the ruthlessness demanded by boss Carsley.

Sergio Kalaj sliced Tino Livramento’s cross over and Anthony Gordon’s speculative effort tested Simon Simoni but that was as close as the visitors got in a frustrating half.

Yet they took complete control in a devastating 16-minute spell after the break with Balogun striking first. The 20-year-old, on loan at Middlesbrough this season, set up a second-half stroll by giving England the lead 95 seconds following the re-start.

Madueke’s excellent pass split the Albania defence to find Balogun and his cute finish beat Simoni.

Four minutes later Jones dispossessed Kalaj and the Liverpool midfielder ran through unchallenged to score.

Balogun wrapped it up after 61 minutes, combining well with Morgan Gibbs-White to fire in his third goal in two games from 10 yards.

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