Defoe downs Italy
Wednesday, 15 August, 2012
A late goal from Jermain Defoe gives England 2-1 win in Berne
By Glenn Lavery
A Jermain Defoe strike ten minutes from time handed England victory over Euro 2012 runners-up Italy in Berne.
The Tottenham man collected James Milner’s pass on the edge of the Italian box before cutting inside to curl a spectacular shot into the far corner, a winning goal that will no doubt provide a boost in confidence ahead of next month’s opening two World Cup qualifiers.
Defoe’s goal completed England’s comeback after they fell behind to Daniele De Rossi’s 15th-minute header.
Phil Jagielka levelled just before the half-hour mark with a header of his own before Defoe struck late on, and Roy Hodgson can now look forward to a trip to Moldova on 7 September after such a timely victory and pleasing all-round performance.
Both sides fielded fairly experimental first elevens with the upcoming qualifiers in mind. Hodgson handed debuts to Team GB duo Tom Cleverley and Jack Butland, the latter, at 19 years and 158 days, becoming his country’s youngest ever goalkeeper, while there was a first cap in over two years for Michael Carrick.
Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy, Tottenham midfielder Jake Livermore and Chelsea defender Ryan Bertrand came on in the second half for their own England bows and Ruddy looked particularly bright, pulling off a number of decent saves.
There were other impressive performances for England with Carrick, Cleverley and Adam Johnson also on form and it should give Hodgson a welcome selection headache.
His side set about their business in confident fashion in their first match of the new campaign and enjoyed a good spell of possession early on. Andy Carroll might have done better with a header from Frank Lampard’s tenth-minute corner but the Liverpool man could only head over the bar.
Butland would have wanted to get off to a solid start and he almost managed it, getting down well to turn Alessandro Diamanti’s deflected free-kick around the post. However, from the resulting corner, De Rossi nipped in at the near post ahead of Carrick to glance a header past the young stopper and give the Italians the lead.
Far from his confidence being rocked, though, Butland quickly put the concession of that goal out of his mind and saved well from Mattia Destro’s header just minutes later.
England didn’t take long to get back into their stride either. They soon regained control of the ball and created their first real opportunity from open play, Johnson curling a low shot into Salvatore Sirigu’s arms.
The European Championship silver medallists were by no means being totally outplayed but they were unable to hold on to their lead for long as Jagielka bravely threw his body at Lampard’s low corner and directed a diving header into the far corner of the net to equalise on 27 minutes.
Lampard, captaining England on the night of his 91st cap, then tried to fire the Three Lions into a quick-fire lead from range but Sirigu parried the shot away.
Full-back Ignazio Abate came close to re-establishing Italy’s lead just before the break but his cross-cum-shot bent safely past the far post from England’s point of view and the two sides went in level at half-time.
After the break Ruddy’s first involvement saw him gather Antonio Nocerino’s speculative shot. The 25-year-old had far to more to do to keep out Destro’s angled snap shot ten minutes after the restart and a strong wrist denied the Roma man at the near post.
England then had the side netting to thank for keeping the scores level as substitute Federico Peluso smashed Nocerino’s through ball just off target.
A competitive second 45 ensued, albeit with a lack of clear cut openings, perhaps down to the number of changes made by both managers.
However, as the game entered its final quarter a delicious cross from substitute James Milner, on for Ashley Young, caused confusion at the back post and Sirigu was required to claw Peluso’s hashed clearance onto the upright. Joleon Lescott, who replaced Jagielka, was unable to capitalise on the hesitancy and his hurried effort also came back off the post.
This passage of play seemed to spark the game into life once more and the pace increased as both sides sought a late winner – a winner that was duly provided by the Spurs hitman.
Ruddy pulled off another good save, this time from Italy sub Marco Verratti, and Bertrand, on for Leighton Baines, headed the subsequent corner off the line, setting England on the counter-attack.
Milner found Defoe on the left-hand side of the box and the 29-year-old turned back inside, away from Abate, and unleashed a trademark right- foot shot into the far corner.
It sealed a good performance by England, but the real business starts next month with the opening World Cup qualifier in Moldova.