Redmond shines - but it’s not enough for England Under-21s
- Credit: AP
Norwich City winger Nathan Redmond twice went close as England's youngsters just fell short in their Under-21 European Championship Group B opener against Portugal.
Playing in his first competitive match since the Play-Off final at Wembley on May 25, Redmond performed well for Gareth Southgate's side and had two of their best efforts, one in each half.
But things had unravelled for the Young Lions in the Czech Republic in the lead-up to the match, with John Stones ruled out for two games with suspected concussion and a knee injury forcing Saido Berahino to withdraw just hours before kick-off.
Those absences were keenly felt in Uherske Hradiste as a solid, battling display was not quite enough against classy Portugal, with Joao Mario's second-half strike securing a 1-0 triumph which extends England's six-year wait for a finals win.
The Young Lions threatened to strike the first blow, with only Ricardo Esgaio's last-ditch intervention preventing Redmond's lovely, low cross finding Harry Kane.
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The end-to-end theme continued throughout the first half, with Redmond stinging the palms of Jose Sa before the Portuguese got shots away.
Jesse Lingard, impressing in place of Berahino, came close with an audacious strike, before sending a cross bound for Kane until Paulo Oliveira got in the way.
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Portugal captain Sergio Oliveira and Ricardo had efforts, with Redmond then over-running a clever Tom Carroll flick as the sides continued to trade blows.
Kane was growing as a presence and twice came close from distance in quick succession.
First the frontman rolled his marker and hit a 25-yard strike that the Portuguese goalkeeper did well to tip around the post, before again trying his luck with a low effort just wide of the near post.
England continued in the ascendancy when played resumed, with Redmond hitting a powerful drive that Sa stopped unconvincingly.
The Portugal goalkeeper breathed a sigh of relief as Ward-Prowse's fine free-kick curled just wide from 20 yards - his final act before Southgate brought on Will Hughes.
They were let-offs Rui Jorge's side capitalised on in the 57th minute, just moments after Raphael Guerreiro had fired a warning shot.
An unfortunate bounce off Luke Garbutt put Silva through on goal and after his effort came back off the post Mario reacted quickest to strike into the empty net.
Ricardo flicked a header wide as Portugal looked to increase an advantage that Kane tried to cancel out with a deflected long-range strike and then a looping header.
Danny Ings and Alex Pritchard were brought on in a bid to give England added attacking impetus, with the latter soon playing through Kane only for his Tottenham team-mate to strike straight at Sa.
Ings' first-time shot flew just over and Pritchard flashed wide either side of a deflected William Carvalho shot, but, try as they might, there was to be no leveller, with Sa saving a wonderful late Carl Jenkinson header.
The defeat heightens the importance of Sunday's clash with Sweden in Olomouc.