The Young Lions were held to a draw by Italy despite dominating possession and chances.
UEFA European U19 Championship
Chance Arena, Jablonec, Czech Republic
8pm (local time) Thursday 17 July 2008
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England U19s got off the points mark in Group B on Thursday evening, when they were held to a goal-less draw by Italy.
The result leaves Group B wide open going into the final games on Sunday, with the Czech Republic and Greece sharing the same scoreline in the other game earlier.
It means that Brian Eastick’s team know that nothing less than a victory will suffice when they take on Greece in Liberec if they are to progress into the semi-finals.
The Young Lions could certainly consider themselves unfortunate not to have won this match though, after totally dominating possession and creating the lion’s share of the chances throughout the 90 minutes.
It wasn’t to be though and with Italy content to defend and soak up the England pressure in the second half, the longer the game went on, the harder it became.
England made a promising start and almost took the lead within the first five minutes, when Freddie Sears played the overlapping Danny Rose into the box. He jinked his way past two men to the byline before firing a low cross into the area where Daniel Sturridge connected only to see his effort go wide of the target.
Sears then had half of the crowd on their feet when he volleyed Sturridge’s left wing cross at goal, only to see it fly into the side netting.
A Victor Moses shot after 14 minutes took a deflection off the back of Italy skipper Massimiliano Tagliani and landed nicely for Kieran Gibbs on his favoured left foot. His angled shot was well stopped by the leg of keeper Vincenzo Fiorillo before bouncing onto the post and away to safety.
At the other end, Italy’s first real effort was registered in the 16th minute when Stefano Okaka found the room to hit a low shot from the right hand side of the box which eventually rolled wide of the far post.
It was still England doing all of the pressing and when Sears skipped around Matteo Bruscagin again, his low cross was agonisingly just in front of both Sturridge and Moses.
Sears then saw a left footer drift wide of the post after a flowing move from England which saw Gibbs and Rose combine before working the ball out to the West Ham forward on the right. He cut inside his man but his curling effort was narrowly off target.
Despite England’s dominance, they could have been going in at the break a goal behind though, when a lofted pass over the top saw Okaka break clear of the defence in the 43rd minute. He was about to pull the trigger, but a last ditch challenge from James Tomkins saved the day.
The Young Lions finished the half strongly though and Rose flashed a shot over the bar from the edge of the box after Moses’ corner had only been half cleared by the Italian defence.
The Italians responded at half time by introducing midfielder Silvano Raggio, no doubt to try and stem the flow of England attacks which had seen them come close to opening the scoring on so many occasions.
The change certainly appeared to work too, as the Young Lions rarely threatened during the first 15 minutes of the second half.
However, Moses came close in the 74th minute, when he found himself a little space on the edge of the area in which to line up a shot. He struck a powerful effort at goal, but Fiorillo did well to beat away his effort and allow the Azzuurini to breath again.
Another driving run from Moses had Italy on the back foot in the 78th minute, as he beat two men before spraying a pass to substitute Fabian Delph on the left. He rounded Matteo Darmian and chipped a cross to the far post for Sturridge, only to see Tagliani get a crucial header away.
England predictably ended the game the stronger, spending the whole two minutes of added time camped in the Italian half but with their opposition remaining solid, they couldn't find the breakthrough and had to settle for just a point.
England: David Button, Jack Cork ©, James Tomkins, Krystian Pearce, Kieran Gibbs, Daniel Sturridge, Freddie Sears (Scott Sinclair, 88) Danny Rose (Fabian Delph, 78) Ryan Bertrand, Victor Moses, Ben Mee.
Subs not used: Joe Mattock, Dan Gosling, Jason Steele, Jamie Chandler, Tope Obadeyi.
Italy: Vincenzo Fiorillo, Matteo Darmian, Matteo Bruscagin (Michelangelo Albertazzi, 66), Massimiliano Tagliani, Matteo Gentili, Alberto Paloschi (Fabio Zamblera, 84) Andrea Mazzarani (Silvano Raggio, 46) Stefano Okaka, Martin Forestieri, Andrea Poli, Giacomo Bonaventura.
Subs not used: Umberto Eusepi, Carlo Pinsoglio, Giovanni Formiconi, Domenico Marchetti.