VIDEO: England downed by Greeks
Wednesday, 03 March, 2010
Greece punish England to go five points clear in Euro 2011 qualifying.
Jamie Bradbury at the Keepmoat Stadium
England were dealt a huge blow in their Euro 2011 qualification hopes as Greece left Doncaster with a valuable victory that puts them five points clear in the group.
It was a disappointing night for the Three Lions, who failed to capitalise on a good start, and were punished by goals in both halves by Kyriakos and Ioannis Papadopolous. Debutant Nathan Delfouneso pulled a goal back for Stuart Pearce’s men late on, but it was not enough and, realistically, leaves them needing two wins from their final two games if they are to reach the play-offs.
The result clearly meant a lot to the Greeks, who celebrated like they had qualified, and it will now take a lot for England to overhaul them at the top of the group, despite having a game more still to play.
Though England were having more of the early possession in the middle third and kept looking to feed lone-striker Carroll, Greece’s quick passing was carving out opportunities for the visitors. First Elin Dimoutsos volleyed over from 20 yards, after Richards had headed away a corner, then Ioannis Papadopoulos sent a free kick over the bar with his left foot from a very dangerous position.
But their best opening came midway through the first period when Ioannis Papadopoulos went on a run from deep on the left, linking up with Kostas Mitroglou, before firing towards Scott Loach. The Watford man was at full stretch to beat away.
Their pressure was building, though and a series of attacks led to a corner out on the right which was delivered dangerously to the edge of the six yard box. An initial header from captain Sokratis Papastathopoulos was cleared from the line by Ryan Bertrand, but Olympiacos defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos reacted first to poke home with 28 minutes played.
Cleverley came close to levelling from just outside the box five minutes later, his shot taking a deflection over the bar for a corner. It lifted the Three Lions, who then saw one attack ended by the referee’s whistle for a foul on the goalkeeper, who then save a Jack Wilshere drive well.
Lee Cattermole also got in on the act. After feigning a shot with his right, the Sunderland man cut inside onto his left and tried a curler around Giakoumis, but again he held comfortably.
Greece hadn’t gone quiet, though, and when a move forward found full-back Anestis Argyriou joining up in space on the right flank, he struck goalwards forcing a fine save from Loach.
And matters got worse for Pearce’s men inside four minutes of the second half. Despite a more offensive shape for England, with Wilshere now operating in a central position, Greece doubled their advantage through Ioannis Papadopoulos.
But it was great work from Vasileios Koutsianikoulis, running at the England defence that created the opening. Richards thought he’d dispossessed the PAOK winger, but his tackled rolled between Bertrand and Smalling on the edge of the area. They hesitated allowing Papadopoulos to do as his namesake had earlier, tucking the ball past Loach.
Wilshere had a glorious chance to pull one back almost instantly. The ball dropping kindly for him unmarked in the box, but he couldn’t keep his shot down and it sailed into the stand.
Pearce through caution to the wind and quickly brought on Daniel Sturridge up front to replace Fabrice Muamba, and he offered England another attacking option, and Carroll some support.
But with 18 minutes left, they had not made the breakthrough, so Pearce added further weight to the front line bringing Aston Villa striker Nathan Delfouneso into the fray for his Under-21s debut, sacrificing Smalling in defence.
Delfouneso’s first involvement was positive, too, losing two defenders to creatE space on the left, but his cross was plucked out of the air by Giakoumis.
But within five minutes the 19-year-old gave England hope. Cleverley’s drive on the volley from 18 yards looked goalbound, but for a strong parry from the Agrotikos Asteras ‘keeper. However, Delfouneso was first to react to the rebound and he stroked into the empty net.
The goal left England with ten minutes to salvage a point, and Pearce had one more throw of the dice replacing Tom Cleverley with Dan Gosling.
In the end, though, despite a late surge, the visitors held on to stretch their lead at the top of Group Nine.
1 Scott Loach, 2 Kyle Walker, 3 Ryan Bertrand, 4 Fabrice Muamba (17 Daniel Sturridge, 54), 5 Micah Richards (c), 6 Chris Smalling (18 Nathan Delfouneso, 74), 7 Jack Wilshere, 8 Lee Cattermole, 9 Andy Carroll, 10 Jack Rodwell, 11 Tom Cleverley (16 Dan Gosling, 87) Subs not used 12 James Tomkins, 13 Frank Fielding, 14 Michael Mancienne, 15 Fabian Delph
Coach Stuart Pearce
1 Asterios Giakoumis, 2 Anestis Argyriou, 3 Ioannis Skondras, 4 Kyriakos Papadopoulos, 5 Sokratis Papastathopoulos (c), 6 Dimitrios Siovas, 7 Vasileios Koutsianikoulis (14 Georgios Katsikogiannis, 62), 8 Ioannis Papadopoulos, 9 Konstantinos Mitroglou (18 Athanasios Papazoglou, 72), 10 Elin Dimoutsos, 11 Dimitrios Giantsis (16 Savvas Gentsoglou, 78) Subs not used 12 Kyriakos Stratilatis, 13Anastasios Papazoglou,15 Vasileios Apostolopoulos, 17 Aristeidis Soiledis
Coach George Georgiadis
Bookings Argyriou (17), Katsikogiannis (84)
Referee Marijo Strahonja (Croatia)
Assisants Zeljko Grgec (Croatia) and Igor Krmar (Croatia)
Fourth Official Igor Pristovnik (Croatia)