England hit Azeris for six
Thursday, 01 September, 2011
Stuart Pearce's men begin Euro 2013 qualifiers emphatically.
by Jamie Bradbury at Vicarage Road
England’s Under-21s began their 2013 UEFA European Championship qualifying campaign on the right foot with a comfortable 6-0 win over Group 8 rivals Azerbaijan at Vicarage Road.
A goal in each half from both Henri Lansbury and Craig Dawson, one from Jordan Henderson and another debut strike from Martyn Waghorn provided Stuart Pearce’s side with the perfect start.
It was a new-look squad that gathered in Hertfordshire four days earlier, with eleven of the 22-man group new to this level. However, Pearce was still able to start the game with seven players who featured during the previous season, while Jack Rodwell was taking part in his third Under-21s campaign.
There were first caps though for Jack Butland, who impressed in goal at the recent FIFA U20s World Cup, and West Brom’s Dawson, Fulham’s Matthew Briggs and Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan in defence. Pearce was also able to introduce Waghorn, local hero Marvin Sordell and another Anfield youngster, Jonjo Shelvey, to Under-21s football in the second half as England cruised to victory.
It took them just four minutes to open the scoring. Henri Lansbury began a man-of-the-match display by playing in captain Jordan Henderson for a great chance which the Liverpool man skewed wide before his corner a few moments later was met well by Dawson. The West Brom man’s header was much too powerful for Osman Umarov and England were in front.
Lansbury, who made a positive impact in all three Euro 2011 Finals games from the bench, continued in the same vein, fresh from sealing a loan move from Arsenal to West Ham United.
And with 21 minutes played, the energetic midfielder had doubled England’s lead. Arsenal club-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sent in a teasing cross from the right hand side, it was dropping behind Lansbury but he shaped his body and delivered a precise overhead effort just inside the post.
Chamberlain, meanwhile, was showing real flashes of why Arsenal were prepared to invest so heavily in the 18-year-old from Southampton. On the half-hour he collected the ball inside the England half and ran at the Azerbaijan defence with pace, jinking one way then the other, before finding himself inside the area. However, he couldn’t produce the delivery and the ball ran out of play.
Sunderland new-boy Connor Wickham, who was now playing on the left after starting in the central role up front in his fourth Under-21s appearance, was keen to get in on the act. He seemed to find it all too easy to open up for a shot on the edge of the area, but his strike went over the bar.
Azerbaijan rarely threatened, but Jack Butland was called into action early on, punching away a dangerous in-swinging delivery and then as the first half was coming to a close Jihan Ozkara tried a low one from range, but it was easily gathered by the 6ft 4in stopper.
On the stroke of half-time skipper Henderson hit England’s third with a similar effort to his first goal for Liverpool six days earlier. After linking up well with Briggs on the left, the ball was asking to be hit and the former Sunderland midfielder delivered giving Umarov no chance.
Butland needed to be at his best two minutes into the second period when Jihan Ozkara had a sight on goal and prodded a powerful snapshot goalwards. The Birmingham City stopper, who kept three clean sheets in four games at the World Cup in Colombia a month earlier, was down well to save to his right.
It spurred the visitors on as they began the half in a much brighter fashion than in the first period and it took a left-foot strike from Briggs, stinging the hands of Umarov, to bring England’s first attempt since the break.
Pearce then brought on Watford striker Marvin Sordell, who scored a debut goal for the U20s earlier this year, and Leicester City striker Martyn Waghorn, who 24 hours earlier had signed on loan at Hull City.
Lansbury soon made it four, turning home a half-cleared punch from the 'keeper after Chamberlain’s cross from the right. Then with one of his first touches Waghorn produced a strike of power similar to what he’s been pulling off in training.
After setting himself in space 30-yards from goal he unleashed a vicious drive that Umarov could only wave at on its way home.
Dawson wrapped up the confidence-boosting victory with another header from a Lansbury cross with a minute to go, and England were up and running.
They now head to Barnsley for a friendly with Israel on Monday night to build on the work done this week. Next up in qualifying is a tough test on the road – an away double-header next month in Iceland and Norway.