England held by resolute Lithuania
Tuesday, 17 November, 2009
England's Under-21s draw 0-0 in Vilnius
Jamie Bradbury in Vilnius
It was a frustrating night in Lithuania as England Under-21s were held 0-0 in their Euro 2011 Qualifier.
Stuart Pearce's side were buoyed by a one-goal victory over Portugal on Saturday and arrived in Vilnius in confident mood. But ulimately, The Three Lions will return home disappointed after a number of missed opportunties against a resolute Lithuanian back four.
Daniel Sturridge had two chances in the opening ten minutes. The first from Kieran Gibbs' left-hand cross, Sturridge's first-time effort was blocked six yards out. Then, after Micah Ricards marauding run on the break, Danny Rose laid the Chelsea man in on his favoured left foot but he failed to hit the target.
Lithuania weren't sitting back, though, and had a couple of decent shots from range through Tadas Eliosius and Karolis Urbaitis, but England legs diverted the danger.
Andy Carroll was also presented with a golden opportunity to head the visitors in front, but the opportunity from Rose's delivery went wide. Moments later the Newcastle United man struck one from 20 yards, which narrowly missed the same post.
Lithuania's shoot-on-sight policy continued when Eivinas Zagurkas fired in a vicious drive from 30 yards. Loach was behind it to block with his chest.
The home side were certainly not overawed by their opponents as Arvydas Novikovas' positive run in behind England's midfield showed. He opened up for the shot, but it was snuffed out by the powerful Richards.
Pearce's side were not having it all their own way, especially when Gibbs limped off after 20 minutes, but when they did switch up a gear they looked dangerous.
Andy Carroll almost finished off a neat move just before half-time, volleying Rose's lofted pass across goal, but once again it evaded the upright.
Fabrice Muamba came close to opening his England account just after the break, but his low, left-foot strike went narrowly wide, then Carroll came even closer. After Tom Cleverley's jinking run through the defence and into the box the ball found Carroll. He side-footed past the 'keeper, but the ball hit the bar and Lithuania cleared.
Pearce made a tactical switch just after the hour, bringing on Zavon Hines for Muamba. The West Ham man moved to right midfield allowing Cleverley to go into the centre.
And Cleverley had another of his runs soon after, this time firing at goal and forcing a powerful save from Cerniauskas.
Substitute Henri Lansbury had a serious shout for a penalty late on, after being hauled down in the area following a one-two with Hines, but the referee waved away the appeal.
A clean sheet will be one positive for Pearce and his players, but in the end it was the three points to end 2009 that they wanted more.
1 Vytautas Cerniauskas, 2 Linas Klimavicius, 3 Mantas Fridrikas, 4 Karolis Urbaitis, 6 Povilas Krasnovskis, 7 Marius Papsys (c) (13 Karolis Chvedukas, 68), 8 Egidijus Vaitkunas, 9 Deivydas Matulevicius, 11 Tadas Eliosius, 15 Elvinas Zagurskas (14 Lukas Kochanauskas, 90), 18 Arvydas Novikovas (16 Paulius Janusauskas, 85)
Substitutes not used 12 Povilas Valincuis, 5 Audrius Rakus, 10 Ramunas Macezinskas, 17 Lukas Stiklakis
Coach Vitalijus Stankevicius
1 Scott Loach, 2 Michael Mancienne, 3 Kieran Gibbs (14 Ryan Bertrand, 21), 4 Fabrice Muamba (18 Zavon Hines, 64), 5 Micah Richards, 6 Chris Smalling, 7 Tom Cleverley, 8 Fabian Delph, 9 Andy Carroll, 10 Daniel Sturridge (16 Henri Lansbury, 79), 11 Danny Rose
Substitutes not used 12 Kyle Naughton, 13 Frank Fielding, 15 Dan Gosling, 17 Jack Cork
Coach Stuart Pearce
Referee Jiri Jech
Assistant Referees Patrik Filipek and Krystof Menci (all Czech Republic)