England leave it late
A late penalty from John Lundstram wins it for England
By Nicholas Veevers in Telford
A dramatic late penalty sealed victory for Noel Blake’s Young Lions in Telford, after an otherwise frustrating night against Finland.
England had the better of the possession and chances throughout the game, but just couldn’t find the breakthrough against the steady Scandinavians and it looked as though they may have to settle for a draw.
But a needless foul on sub Adebayo Azeez by Finnish captain and ‘keeper Daniel Kollar in the third minute of stoppage time gave England a perfect opportunity to win and captain John Lundstram, impressive throughout, made no mistake to slot home the winner with the last kick of the game.
Considering this was something of a new-look U19 squad for Blake and his staff, it was no real surprise that it took them a little time to fully find their rhythm, despite the best efforts of Lundstram and his midfield partner James Ward-Prowse who were proficient throughout with their movement and passing in an attempt to get the side on song.
Finland, at full strength and preparing for their Euro qualifiers later this month, settled into the game quickly and it was no surprise when they forced Jordan Pickford into a brave save in the ninth minute, as he blocked Jesper Brechtel’s effort inside the box.
That chance seemed to liven up England and they responded in the 12th minute when a forceful run forward by John Stones ended with Jacob Murphy collecting a pass and then firing a shot at goal, which was saved by Kollar.
Blair Turgott almost had the crowd on their feet just before the break, when debutant Miles Storey’s cross was nodded back into the danger zone by another first-time cap Bradley Potts, but the West Ham forward didn’t fully connect with his attempted scissor-kick.
With four changes made at half time, England started the second period much more brightly, as Storey’s cross from the left was inches from picking out Turgott in the box.
Murphy then did all of the hard work to fashion some space for himself in the area with a neat turn, only to smash his shot well over the bar.
Finland were hanging on at times, and the presence of Azeez in the box forced them into a desperate scramble clear after 69 minutes following good work from Turgott and James Weir in the build-up.
Azeez then linked up with Weir again as the pair exchanged passes in the box, but Kollar was there to deny the Charlton Athletic striker his first England goal.
He came even closer after 75 minutes, when Josh Murphy’s driven cross from the left evaded him by a whisker, just yards from goal.
Murphy, with his twin brother and Norwich team-mate by now substituted, then flashed a shot wide of the target after breaking in behind the Finnish defence from the left channel, but again Kollar was left untested.
The last ten minutes saw England throwing everything at their visitors and it appeared their chances had gone, as Jack O’Connell, Turgott and Weir were all denied in stoppage time.
But when Kollar hauled down Azeez on the touchline, with just seconds remaining, he paid the ultimate price and England made it a winning end to 2012.
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