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2017 U21 European Championship, Group Stage

Jordan Pickford penalty save helps England earn draw with Sweden

Jordan Pickford's penalty save preserved England's draw. Stephen Pond/The FA

Jordan Pickford was England's hero as his late penalty save earned the Young Lions a 0-0 draw against defending champions Sweden in their European Under-21 Championship opener in Poland.

The new £30 million Everton goalkeeper kept out Linus Wahlqvist's spot-kick to help Aidy Boothroyd's side cling onto a point.

Pickford became the world's third most expensive keeper when he completed his move to the Toffees from Sunderland on Thursday, and swiftly proved his value.

England failed to break down the holders, although Tammy Abraham twice went close and Ben Chilwell's deflected effort hit the bar.

Pawel Cibicki struck the woodwork for Sweden as, in front of the watching Football Association hierarchy -- including senior boss Gareth Southgate and technical director Dan Ashworth -- England rode their luck.

Group A also includes hosts Poland and Slovakia and, with only the three group winners and best runners-up going through, England must improve.

England did score an early victory before the game when a thunderstorm soaked the Kolporter Arena.

Sweden had not agreed to have the pitch watered as they felt it would give England an advantage, only for their stubborn approach to backfire because of the weather.

And the holders also offered resistance on the pitch as England dominated without finding an early breakthrough.

Sweden held firm against England's tempo and high pressing line and Abraham lifted an eight-yard volley over after 10 minutes.

The Chelsea striker, who scored 26 goals on loan at Bristol City last season, also bundled his way through only to be thwarted by goalkeeper Anton Cajtoft.

It was a promising start but Sweden began to find their feet and carved out the best chance after 26 minutes.

Cibicki and Gustav Engvall combined on the right to bamboozle Nathaniel Chalobah only for Cibicki to shoot over from six yards.

It was a warning to the Young Lions, who had conceded a record number of goals in European Under-21 Championship -- 63 -- before kick-off.

England were faced with much more of a battle than the first 20 minutes suggested but Jacob Murphy drilled over before Abraham went close a minute before the break.

The 19-year-old forward -- four years younger than some of his opponents -- looked raw but acrobatically directed a volley over as England ended the half on top.

But Sweden began to exert some more pressure and England were saved by the woodwork after 57 minutes.

Cibicki had been a constant threat and the Malmo forward showed exactly why when he was allowed too much time on the edge of the area to curl a brilliant effort which cracked off the angle of post and bar with Pickford beaten.

Minutes later Lewis Baker shot over from James Ward-Prowse's neat corner and Chilwell's 30-yard deflected effort looped onto the bar.

But England were stretched at the back with substitute Carlos Strandberg causing problems and Mason Holgate executed a brilliant tackle to stop the Club Brugge striker running clean through.

The fact the break came from England's own corner -- after Cajtoft turned Ward-Prowse's free-kick wide -- sounded alarm bells.

And the Young Lions were rescued by Pickford with nine minutes left when he capped a fine personal week with a penalty save after Chilwell clattered into Wahlqvist.

The Leicester defender appeared to get some of the ball but it was a reckless lunge in a needless situation.

But Pickford stood up to Wahlqvist to beat away the IFK Norrkoping defender's chipped penalty before gathering Strandberg's follow-up as England survived.

European Under-21 Championship News