Goals from Ciaran Clark and Daniel Sturridge saw England U20s beat Italy.
England 2-0 Italy
7pm, Tuesday 31 March 2009,
Loftus Road, Queens Park Rangers
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England’s preparations for the FIFA U20 World Cup got off to a fine start in west London on Tuesday night, as first-half goals from captain Ciaran Clark and striker Daniel Sturridge saw off the challenge of Italy.
It was a largely fluent and commanding performance from the Young Lions and after initially struggling to find their rhythm, they went on to collect a deserved victory over the Azzurrini who will be amongst England’s European rivals in Egypt this September.
Coach Noel Blake will no doubt be pleased with his team, after they successfully shut out their visitors, whose team included many of the side which reached the Final of the European U19 Championship last summer.
However, the first 20 minutes saw Italy look the more likely winners as they began well and enjoyed some early possession and pressure.
They almost took the lead after just ten minutes, but a fine save from David Button kept them out when the ball broke to Guido Marilungo just inside the box. He expertly controlled a headed clearance from James Tomkins before smashing a volley at goal. It looked to be destined for the net with Button positioned slightly off-centre, but he was quickly back across his line to make a stunning tip over and allow England to regroup.
England had their first real sight of goal in the 20th minute, when Scott Sinclair did well to cut the ball back to Freddie Sears in the area. He took it past one defender with his first touch and was just about to strike when a last-ditch challenge from Matteo Bruscagin denied him at the expense of a corner.
It was from that set-piece which the Young Lions drew first blood too, as Marc Albrighton whipped a pacy cross in for Clark who climbed highest in the box and powered home a firm header via the crossbar.
Ten minutes later and England added a second, when Kieran Gibbs delivered a fine cross from the left. Sears allowed it to run past him for his strike-partner and as soon as Sturridge killed the ball with his first touch, he gave goalkeeper Carlo Pinsoglio no chance with his second as he curled home a left-footer into the top corner.
England almost had a third in the 33rd minute, when Albrighton’s cross from the right caused confusion in the Italian defence with Bruscagin attempting to head back to his goalkeeper. He put a bit too much height and pace on it though and forced Pinsoglio into a desperate tip-over.
Sturridge then had the ball in the net again after hitting a powerful low drive into the bottom corner from the edge of the area, but that strike was ruled out for an offside in the build-up play.
With half time just two minutes away, Clark came close to adding his second of the night as he glanced Josh Walker’s free-kick delivery just beyond the far post with Pinsoglio beaten.
Most of the crowd weren’t even back in their seats for the second half when Italy almost pulled a goal back through substitute Umberto Eusepi. A ball in from the right somehow found its way to the striker and despite looking favourite to score from close range, half-time substitute Ben Amos got the slightest of touches to divert it wide of the post.
Amos was then tested again in the 56th minute when Claudio Della Penna managed to create some space for himself in the area before curling a shot towards goal, but the Manchester United stopper was fully alert to make a comfortable save.
Whilst Italy were looking more lively following their three switches at the break, it was England who continued to enjoy the better of the chances and a third goal would not have been undeserved.
Sears was unfortunate not to get the goal his performance warranted with just over 20 minutes to go, when Junior Stanislas’ cross caused a scramble in the box only for Pinsolgio to save at the West Ham man’s feet in front of his watching manager Gianfranco Zola.
Sturridge then should have added a third when Stanislas crossed from the left only to see the Manchester City forward head wide of the post when well positioned.
At the other end, Ryan Bertrand was on hand to block a shot in the area after Leandro Martinez had beaten Amos to the ball and had just an empty goal to aim at but that was as close as Italy went.
Pinsoglio was then forced into a save after 78 minutes, when Albrighton cut inside from the right flank and fired in a left-footer from 20 yards.
That proved to be the last of the chances though, with England comfortably holding out for a clean sheet and making a fine start on their road to the World Cup.England
1 David Button (13 Ben Amos, 46) 2 Javan Vidal, 3 Ryan Bertrand (12 Ben Mee, 76) 4 Josh Walker (14 Adam Clayton, 67) 5 James Tomkins (15 Chris Smalling, 46) 6 Ciaran Clark (c), Marc Albrighton (16 Jack Colback, 79) 8 Kieran Gibbs, 9 Daniel Sturridge (18 Tope Obadeyi, 82) 10 Freddie Sears, 11 Scott Sinclair (17 Junior Stanislas, 65).Substitutes all used
Ciaran Clark (20), Daniel Sturridge (30), Italy
1 Carlo Pinsoglio, 2 Matteo Bruscagin, 3 Matteo Gentili (14 Francesco Pambianchi, 75), 4 Michaelangelo Albertazzi (15 Marco Calderoni, 46) 5 Massimiliano Tagliani (c), 6 Silvano Raggio Garibaldi, 7 Marco Augusto Romizi, 8 Andrea Mazzarani, 9 Stefano Okaka Chuca (18 Umberto Eusepi, 46) 10 Guido Marilungo (16 Claudio Della Penna, 46) 11 Mattia Mustacchio.Substitutes not used:
12 Sergio Viotti, 13 Salvatore D’Elia, 14 Francesco Pambianchi, 17 Leandro Antonio Martinez.OfficialsReferee
Steve TannerAssistant Referees
Stephen Child & Justin ComleyFourth Official