Hope sends England into last four
Monday, 09 May, 2011
Reigning European Champions through to the Semi-Finals.
Nicholas Veevers at FK Indjija
England U17s, reigning European Champions, booked their place in the semi-finals with an emphatic win over hosts Serbia.
As John Peacock's young side sought to bounce back from defeat last week to Denmark and keep alive hopes of defending their crown, a storming first 18 minutes saw them race into a three-goal lead, and simultaneously book their place at the FIFA U17 World Cup next month in Mexico.
Peacock’s players went into their final game in Group A knowing that they had to win in order to stand any chance of qualifying for the trip to Mexico in June, whilst they would be relying on the result from the other match between Denmark and France in Novi Sad.
When news filtered through midway into the second half that the Danes had taken the lead, England simply had to see the result out and ensure the three points to leapfrog France in the Group A rankings and seal a semi-final encounter with Holland on Thursday.
In truth, England had this game wrapped up with less than a quarter of the game gone, after an electric start saw goals from Brad Smith and a Hallam Hope brace dampen Serbian hopes in front of their home support.
After seeing his side make a poor start in their previous match with Denmark, Peacock had told his charges that he wanted a more high-tempo opening to proceedings and that was exactly what he got when they took the lead in the seventh minute.
The move started with John Lundstram, who brought the ball forward into the opposition half before finding midfield partner Jake Caskey to his left. Two quick passes later and Smith over-lapped past him before placing a cross-shot into the area. Serbian ‘keeper Nemanja Latinovic appeared to totally mis-judge the flight of the delivery and before he knew it, the ball had nestled into the goal via the far post.
Within two minutes, England were in further control. There appeared to be little danger as Hope received the ball 25 yards from goal and the Serbia rearguard stood off him. Big mistake, as a swift turn and instant shot from the Everton man saw him catch them out to find the corner of the net and register his second goal of the Finals.
Less than ten minutes later and Peacock’s men were firmly in the driving seat, as Blair Turgott beat his man on the right before playing a cross into the area. Defender Marko Marinkovic completely missed his clearance and Hope was well placed behind him to tap home from close range.
What had been a great first half for England ended on a sour note though, as Nick Powell was stretchered off after appearing to fall awkwardly whilst challenging a clearance from Bojan Nastic. He was replaced by his Crewe Alexandra team-mate Max Clayton in midfield just seconds before the break.
Serbia came out for the second half determined to salvage some pride from the game and they started well, with playmaker Dejan Meleg’s free-kick from the right almost being turned home by Luka Stojanovic only for Jordan Pickford to make a good save. The same player then shot over the bar from the resulting free-kick.
The hosts then started to try and physically intimidate England, with substitutes Nikola Ninkovic and Nikola Mandic both cautioned within the space of two minutes for cynical fouls on Turgott and Chalobah respectively. The Young Lions kept their cool though, as the game threatened to get feisty.
Serbia continued to show plenty of endeavour in their bid to break the deadlock, but aside from a Ninkovic header which clipped the cross-bar, England were always comfortable in keeping them at arm’s length.
It was enough too, as England’s mature and disciplined performance here fully justifies their place in the semi-final.