Lions held in Medellin
Tuesday, 02 August, 2011
A strong and fluid performance from England ends in draw with Argentina.
By Nicholas Veevers in Medellin
England put in a strong and disciplined performance, with some good football thrown in for good measure as they were held to a draw by Argentina in Medellin.
The result means that Brian Eastick’s team go into their final group game with Mexico knowing that a win will guarantee them a passage to the Seocnd Round whilst even another draw is also likely to take the Young Lions through as one of the best third placed group teams.
Eastick’s team can consider themselves unfortunate not to have got more out of this game though, having had more than their fair share of the possession and opportunities against an Argentina side who were strong favourites in this competition.
They had no answer to England’s defence and midfield though, whilst the likes of Billy Knott, Saido Berahino, Matt Phillips, Callum McManaman and Michael Ngoo in the latter stages provided the Albaceleste with plenty to think about in what developed into an entertaining contest for the 40,000 strong crowd.
It was a tentative start to the game, with few chances at either end in the opening exchanges but Argentina came the closest to opening the scoring after 20 minutes. A pass into Juan Iturbe was superbly controlled by the winger, before he quickly turned and fired a shot wide of the target to light the touchpaper.
Jack Butland was forced into his first save of the match eight minutes later, when Adrian Martinez fired a speculative shot at goal only for the England ‘keeper to tip it around the post and wide.
England were then dealt a blow just after the half-hour mark though, as the commanding Nathan Baker was carried off after taking a bang to the head and suffering concussion. Midfielder James Wallace came on to replace him, with Reece Brown dropping back into defence.
Seconds after that change, England had the ball in the net when Phillips whipped in a cross from the right for Knott to side-foot home. The Young Lions thought they were ahead, only for an offside flag to see that ruled out, with replays showing the Sunderland man to be marginally offside.
Knott then tried his luck again, from a bit further out this time, as he struck a low shot from 25 yards which hit the side netting.
It was certainly the Young Lions who finished the half the stronger of the two teams though and Eastick would certainly have been the happier of the two coaches at the break in what was developing into a really intriguing encounter.
England picked up where they left off too, playing some good football with Wallace in particular prompting things from his deep lying position. One pass which he placed over the top to pick out Saido Berahino had Argentina on the back foot and when after the striker skipped past Hugo Nervo, his angled shot was well saved by Esteban Andrada.
In response, Argentina coach Walter Perazzo made a tactical switch by removing striker Facundo Ferreyra for an extra midfielder and playing with no centre-forward but two wingers and a more advanced role for the dangerous Erik Lamela. It had an instant effect too, as within minutes, Lamela had forced Butland into a good save with a powerful shot from a tight angle.
England also made changes and Michael Ngoo was brought on to replace McManaman. A different style to Berahino up front, he offered an alternative threat and after skipping past two men, his slipped pass into Adam Smith on the edge of the area was sublime. The right-back, who had made a great run forward, saw his low shot tipped around the post by Andrade though.
That proved to be the last of England’s opportunities and with Blair Adams limping off for the last five minutes through injury, it was Argentina who finally came to life in the dying moments.
Aside from a header by captain German Pezzella which went over though, England held firm to pick up a deserved and morale-boosting point.