England had the perfect send-off for their European challenge, brushing aside Slovakia 5-0.
England 5-0 Slovakia
International Under-21 Friendly
8pm, Tuesday 5 June, 2007
Carrow Road, Norwich City FC
Nigel Reo-Coker scored his first ever Under-21s goal as England mastered their opponents at Carrow Road, crushing Slovakia 5-0.
Making his 19th appearance at this level, the skipper was playing in his final Under-21 game on home soil and ended a fine England move with a sweeping finish to make it 2-0.
It was to be his final touch of the game, but he, like the rest of the team, will be brimming with confidence and feel that they can go all the way this summer.
It was a high-tempo performance from start to finish from Stuart Pearce’s side, which could even have ended in double figures.
In the build-up, Pearce had mentioned the team’s ability to score goals, while he was looking for them to tighten up at the back after conceding five in their last two games. And he’ll be delighted to see them do just that, as wave after wave of England attack, kept Slovakia a long way from goal.
When the visitors did get forward, Steven Taylor and Gary Cahill were rarely troubled, only once Pavol Jurco cause a stir, while Joe Hart, starting in goal for the first time, had virtually nothing to do.
But tonight wasn’t about them, it was about England and the Three Lions had the perfect send off ahead of their European Challenge. They attacked from all over, keen to get as much out of this game as possible and the only surprise was that it took them 35 minutes to get their noses in front. But once they did, there was only one winner.
After Tom Huddlestone had carved out a couple of chances for David Nugent, one which forced the keeper into a close-range save with his nose, England began to open up the throttle.
Slovakia just couldn’t cope with the speed at which England went about their business, James Milner and Ashley Young causing all sorts of problems on the wings.
And it was they who carved out the first goal; Milner’s superb cross from the right was controlled on the chest by Young. He dummied the shot, enticing Peter Pekarik into the challenge. It was clumsy, bringing down the Villa winger, and the ref pointed to the spot.
Kieran Richardson, who also looked lively in wide positions, tucked away the penalty neatly.
The Welsh referee, Mark Whitby, must have had a crystal ball and feared for a big score as, when Young went down under an equally scruffy challenge just before half time, he waved away England’s appeals.
But just after the hour mark it was game over, when Reo-Coker found the net from 18 yards.
England were enjoying this, while it gave Pearce an opportunity to try things, as he made seven substitutes – Mark Noble making a solid debut – and changed the formation around to 4-4-2 when Lita replaced the skipper.
The armband went to Steven Taylor, and he was next in line for a goal. Again it came from Ashley Young’s side. His pace and trickery was sending Pekarik in a spin, but on this occasion, it was Wayne Routledge who beat the captain and drilled in a low cross. Steven Taylor attacked the front post like a true striker and poked home his fourth Under-21 goal.
Huddlestone then scored his first goal, too, making it four with a powerful, first-time shot, bending away from Kamenar with nine minutes left before Leroy Lita put the icing on the cake, smashing home from 15 yards.
Even in the stage-managed penalty shoot-out after, which gave them a bit of practice in case they crop up in Holland, England came out on top winning 4-3.
Who knows what’s in store in the next three weeks…
1 Joe Hart, 2 Nedum Onuoha (15 Leighton Baines, 46), 3 Justin Hoyte (12 Liam Rosenior, 71), 4 Tom Huddlestone, 5 Steven Taylor, 6 Gary Cahill, 7 Nigel Reo-Coker (c)(18 Leroy Lita, 62), 8 James Milner (21 Wayne Routledge, 46), 9 David Nugent ( 19 Matt Derbyshire, 71), 10 Ashley Young (16 Peter Whittingham, 78), 11 Kieran Richardson (17 Mark Noble, 46)
Subs not used: 13 Ben Alnwick, 14 Anton Ferdinand, 20 James Vaughan
Goals: Richardson (pen) 35, Reo-Coker 61, Taylor 77, Huddlestone 82, Lita 84
1 Lubos Kamenar, 2 Peter Pekarik (c), 3 Jan Maslo, 4 Lukas Bakos (16 Jan Nemcek, 89), 5 Michal Jonas, 6 Matej Izvolt (18 Zoltan Harsanyi, 72), 7 Ivan Lisivka, 8 Patrik Mraz, 9 Pavol Jurco, 10 Lukas Opiela, 11 Erik Jendrisek ( 13 Tomas Majtan, 46)
Subs not used: 12 Roman Smieska, 14 Karol Karlik, 15 Frantisek Viskup, 17 Erik Grendel
Referee Mark Whitby (Wales)
Assistant Referee Alun Boore (Wales) and Brian James (Wales)
Fourth Official Kevin Friend (England)
TheFA.com Man of the Match Ashley Young