Lions victorious in Mansfield
Wednesday, 24 October, 2012
Goals from Chris Long and Devante Cole see win over Italy for U18s
By Nicholas Veevers in Mansfield
England U18s made a winning start to the new season on a wet and windy night in Mansfield, where goals from Everton striker Chris Long and Manchester City’s Devante Cole proved enough to see off a resilient Italian outfit.
Noel Blake’s side, who usually play two games a season at this level to bridge the gap between the U17 and U19 Championships, were certainly tested by the Azzurrini and had to work hard for their victory.
But a goal in each half from Long and Cole saw the Young Lions successful and despite some first-half nerves as the Italians threatened, they could easily have made the scoreline greater in the later stages.
England almost made a dream start too, when the ball was played to Jordan Ibe straight from the kick-off. He outpaced Lorenzo Venuti down the left, before cutting the ball back to Long, whose slide-rule shot was blocked on the line by Dario Del Fabro within the first 30 seconds of the game.
The Goodison Park hotshot didn’t have to wait much longer though, as two minutes later he was off the mark when Isaac Hayden’s centre from the left picked him out completely unmarked in the six yard box, where he made no mistake to put England ahead.
Italy quickly got to grips with the conditions after their shaky start and were almost back level immediately, when Luca Crecco broke clear onto a long ball down the left before finding Diego Frugoli on the edge of the area. The winger’s first-time shot with his left-foot was arrowing towards the top corner, only for Luke Coddington to make a fine save by tipping the ball over the bar.
The visitors had really put the early set-back behind them by now and went on to control large parts of the first half, but found Middlesbrough 'keeper Coddington in confident and controlling form without ever fully testing him aside from long-range attempts.
England, meanwhile, were finding it hard to supply the right service to Long and Cole, with possession squandered too often when looking to move forward and Blake would undoubtedly be asking his side for a second-half improvement.
He got that too, as England looked a more settled team after the break with better composure in possession and less of a tendancy to rush things through, with the likes of Leo Chambers and John Swift impressing as the ball was worked from defence to midfield.
With further changes made to see Alistair Gordon on at left-back and Adam Webster moved into the centre of defence, there was more fluency about the Young Lions’ play and their presence as an attacking force increased.
And the killer second goal arrived just after the hour mark, when Ibe, Long and substitute James Weir combined on the edge of the Italian area to the send the latter clear into the box. His first attempt was blocked, but when it landed back at his feet, he rolled the ball into the six yard box where Cole had the simplest of tasks to roll it over the line.
There was a nice moment for Norwich City twins Josh and Jacob Murphy moments later as both were introduced at the same time to make their England bows in attack and the Young Lions ended the match in the ascendancy, with the substitutes all looking lively in the final third and a more solid feel to the defence.
With another U18 fixture in the new year, along with U19 qualifiers and matches to come, Blake has been given plenty of options here so will be quietly happy with the group, many of whom were new to international football until this game.