VIDEO: Early season silverware for England
Sunday, 28 August, 2011
1-0 defeat of Portugal enough to win FA International U17 Tournament.
by Glenn Lavery at Sixfields Stadium
Click here to watch highlights of England's win courtesy of FATV
A Jack Jebb header ensured England won The FA International U17 Tournament for the second consecutive year at the expense of their Portuguese opposition.
Arriving in the box unmarked, the midfielder met Callum Robinson’s 42nd-minute cross and nodded beyond the Portuguese goalkeeper, Palha, to give the Young Lions a triumphant conclusion to this annual friendly competition. It also means the trophy stays in England after last year’s U17s beat Australia, Portugal and Turkey to the prize 12 months ago.
John Peacock’s young side kicked off this year’s Tournament with a deserved 1-0 victory over Italy on Wednesday, before slipping to a narrow defeat to the Czech Republic on Friday evening. But they bounced back well and put in an impressive display against a talented looking Portugal side. England controlled the game for large spells and they also defended well when the visitors were looking for the equaliser, and their maturity and game management will certainly have pleased their Head Coach ahead of October’s Euro qualifiers, for which this Tournament is used as preparation.
England had the better of the ball in the opening exchanges, although neither side were able to test either goalkeeper’s credentials early on; it took until the 16th minute for the first attempt at goal, through Portuguese winger Christian, after Joe Rothwell had been dispossessed by Joao Gomes in the centre of the park.
Portugal took heart from this albeit off target effort and registered another one just three minutes later, but the outcome was the same as Gomes’ dragged his shot wide of George Willis’ right-hand upright.
The host's first chance fell to Rothwell after Portugal failed to properly clear Kieran Wallace’s right-sided corner. The Manchester United midfielder drilled the loose ball through a crowd of bodies only for the Portuguese stopper to get his body behind the ball.
Willis was called into action moments later, and after spilling Francisco Ramos’ effort he recovered quickly to deny both Gomes and Raphael Guzzo on the rebound. England skipper Leo Chambers was on-hand to complete the clearance.
The game started to open up a bit and just after the half-an-hour mark Christian fired over after being found by a raking cross-field ball from right-back Rebocho.
Although the sides went in goalless at the break, it took just two minutes after the restart for Jebb to break the deadlock. Robinson, who Peacock had switched from the right flank to the left, clipped a teasing ball into the centre and the Arsenal midfielder arrived almost unnoticed to plant a header home from ten yards out.
The Young Lions were good value for their lead and another Willis-Chambers combination ensured their one-goal margin stayed intact. An in-swinging right-wing free-kick from Portugal ricocheted around in the England box and the ball fell invitingly for substitute Andre Silva, on for Gomes. He lashed it towards goal, but Willis got down smartly and produced a marvellous save. Chambers again completed the clearance by heading the loose ball over the bar, although the referee blew for a push on the West Ham defender.
Willis excelled himself again a few moments later as Portugal began to gain the upper hand. A strong run through the centre from another substitute, Marcos Lopes, led to him playing in Christian on the right side of the box. He took a touch to control and tried to angle a drive into the far corner, though Willis got another strong hand to the ball to turn it behind for a corner.
A raft of substitutions from both sides affected the flow of the game somewhat and England were able to stem Portugal’s attacks. Eventually, Peacock’s young side managed to regain the initiative and put their visitors on the back foot with some good wing play from Robinson and Jordan Graham, on for Wallace. Graham delivered a couple of delicious, low crosses but none of his team-mates were able to make anything of them.
Graham then did brilliantly to dig out a third cross with just five minutes remaining but Austin Lipman, on for Devante Cole, mistimed his kick and the danger was eventually eradicated. Then, with Portugal frantically searching for the leveller, a jinking run into the box by Romario Balde was only brought to an end by a well timed sliding block from Chambers at the near post.
There was still time for two more England attacks, though, and unsurprisingly the impressive Graham was involved in both. First, he bamboozled Rafael with some tricky footwork inside the box, however he then proceeded to blast the ball over the bar from an acute angle. And then in added time he was found in space by John Swift, on for Jebb, and his poked effort was well saved by Palha. Neither Swift or Lipman could make anything of the rebound, though.
That was to be last action of the game, with England holding out for victory and some early season silverware. But the real test comes in October when they travel to Bosnia & Herzegovina to take on the host nation, Latvia and Holland in the First Qualifying Round of the UEFA European U17 Championship. They will go there full of confidence after an impressive week of football.