Lions grab late leveller
Saturday, 24 July, 2010
England secure draw, and place in semis with last gasp equaliser.
Nicholas Veevers in Saint-Lo
Noel Blake's young side grabbed a deserved draw against France, and progressed to the semi-finals, showing tremendous spirit and resolve.
Knowing that a win would secure a place in the last four, England were unfortunate to go into the break on level terms having peppered the French goal. Worse was to come as France took the lead eleven minutes into the second period through Tafer, and with the Netherlands level at the time with Austria it seemed that England would be going home.
But three minutes from time and a lifeline came with news that Austria had taken the lead, and despite some complicated mathmatics required to separate the teams, England would be going through, and that fact was made even simpler when Matt Phillips scored with virtually the final kick of the game to reward some severe pressure from the team in white.
England, who will face Spain on Tuesday afternoon for a place in the final, started the game well and within three minutes they forced Abdoulaye Diallo into his first save of the afternoon, when Frank Nouble beat Gaetan Bussmann on the right before playing a pacy centre into the middle which the French ‘keeper did well to catch ahead of Ryan Donaldson who was lurking with intent.
Within a minute though, France broke clear themselves and Enzo Reale found himself in space in the box only for Declan Rudd to turn his shot around the post and that was how the first half largely panned out.
The Young Lions had certainly enjoyed the better of the opening ten minutes, and Nouble tried his luck again with a speculative volley from the corner of the box after a sustained spell of passing.
Again, it was France who came the closest though as a corner from the left in the 14th minute was headed firmly down by captain Gilles Sunu. It looked destined for the bottom corner but Nathaniel Clyne was well placed on the post to head it wide.
Diallo was then called into action again after 25 minutes when the ball was worked out to Nathan Delfouneso on the left. He had the French defence backing off, before he cut inside onto his right foot and forced the ‘keeper into a good save.
Two corners later and Josh Thompson got his head onto Dean Parrett’s flag-kick but powered his effort over the crossbar.
A terrific opening 30 minutes to the encounter ended with another save from Diallo, this time to stop Matt James’ right-footer from 25 yards after more progress had been made by Delfouneso on the left.
It was a thoroughly enthralling match as both teams tested and probed each other in search of a breakthrough and just to prove what a fine first half it had been, there were no stoppages whatsoever before the break with both teams playing some decent football in the right areas of the pitch to keep the crowd entertained.
The second half started in the similar vein and was less than a minute old when Clyne had to make a second impressive clearance off the goal-line. This time, big French defender Sebastien Faure climbed highest in the area to send Clement Grenier’s corner goalwards but the Crystal Palace man was well placed to scramble the ball clear.
At the other end, England came close again when a deep cross into the area was knocked back by Steven Caulker for Donaldson but he dragged his half-volley narrowly wide of the target.
France were still leading the probing though and they edged even closer in the 52nd minute when Clement Grenier crashed a powerful 25 yard shot at goal only to see it whack against the post and fly away to safety.
Within seconds of that, England had a great chance to take the lead when Delfouneso was picked out in the area and turned on goal. He’d lost the attentions of his marker, but could only shoot just wide of the post.
The opening goal finally arrived in the 56th minute though, and unfortunately it went the wrong way for England. A break forward by Reale saw him pick out Sunu on the right hand side of the area and when he got to the line and chipped a cross into the six yard box, Yannis Tafer was there to nod home.
England rallied and forced a corner at the other end, which Parrett floated over for his Tottenham team-mate Caulker. He won the header strongly and guided the ball towards the corner, but Bakambu had obviously been watching Clyne at the other end as he was perfectly placed to clear off the line.
With time starting to run out, Blake made his first switch by bringing on attacker Ryan Noble for Parrett in the chase for a goal. He was swiftly joined by both Matt Phillips and John Bostock as fresh legs were introduced for the last 15 minutes.
It had the desired effect, as England started to take control of the game. Noble looked to have a good shout for a penalty denied after being tripped in the area before Bostock did superbly to cut in from the right before seeing his howitzer fly narrowly over.
Diallo then made another glorious save to turn Delfouneso’s shot in the box around the post, before his half-save from Noble was scrambled.
With the game only seconds from time, the equaliser finally arrived after what seemed like an eternity of pressure from England. Noble clipped a cross from the left toward Phillips. He saw his initial shot saved by the magnificent Diallo but he could not hold the effort and the Wycombe Wanderers man was on hand to get the goal that they so deserved.