VIDEO: Lions hit Iceland for five
Thursday, 10 November, 2011
England maintain 100 per cent start to Euros with win in Colchester.
by Jamie Bradbury at Colchester United FC
Watch Match Highlights from the game right here with FATV
England Under-21s continued their perfect start to the season, but were made to work hard before running out comfortable winners against Iceland in Colchester.
Little over a year since their last visit to the League One club, when a 3-0 win over Lithuania confirmed their place in the Euro 2011 play-offs, Pearce and his team returned and it looked like they were going to have to again wait until late to make the breakthrough.
But this time the Three Lions took a 1-0 lead into the break thanks to Marvin Sordell, before Martin Kelly made it two just before the hour. A goal from Craig Dawson and a double from Gary Gardner added a gloss to the finish and capped another good night at the Weston Homes for the Under-21s.
England are now halfway through their UEFA European Championship Qualifying fixtures and the win stretches their lead in Group 8 to five points after Norway and Belgium had drawn earlier in the evening.
With a number of first-time call-ups in his squad, Pearce handed a debut to Crystal Palace defender Nathaniel Clyne, who was given the left-back slot after Nathan Baker and Joe Bennett were ruled out of the game, and it wasn’t long before another first cap was awarded. Pearce also gave a first run to Manchester United WIll Keane as a late substitute for Josh McEachran.
For the second game running against Iceland, there was early disappointment for Nathan Delfouneso, who limped off after eleven minutes with a tight hamstring, but was replaced by Newcastle United striker Sammy Ameobi, who was making his Under-21s bow. And almost instantly he carved out two opportunities with powerful runs down the left, but England failed to produce a finish.
Sordell also had a shot on goal, which Arnar Petursson saved well to his left, then Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who by this time in the game in Reykjavik a month earlier had scored two of his hat-trick, almost clipped home from the tightest of angles. Unfortunately, the ball carried across the face of goal and away to safety.
A piece of Chamberlain magic, a drag back to lose his marker, on the half-hour laid-up Josh McEachran on the by-line who prodded goalwards. The ball ricocheted off the legs of Eidur Sigurbjörnsson and looked to be sneaking inside the post until Petursson gathered.
Iceland were looking stronger than a month ago and were themselves posing problems, twice seeing efforts deflected away for corners before Aron Johannsson has a great chance from the edge of the box. But, with time and space, his dipping volley went into the crowd.
However, with the half wearing on, England finally found a breakthrough and it was a well-worked strike from Sordell. He found Liverpool man Henderson making a run on the right of the Iceland box and rolled the ball into his path then darted towards the penalty spot, slipping away from his marker. The delivery in was perfect from the captain, as was the finish from Sordell, and the ball found the corner of the net giving Petursson little chance.
No sooner had the second half started and Craig Dawson was thinking he’d doubled England’s advantage, tucking home from a Chamberlain corner, but the referee awarded a free-kick to Iceland for a foul by the West Brom defender.
And the visitors then came close themselves with a free-kick from 25 yards. Johann Gudmunsson took it, and his swerving shot beat the wall and looked to be troubling Jack Butland, but fortunately for the 'keeper the ball just missed the target.
With the hour approaching, Kelly struck to make it two with another excellent finish. Picking the ball up with an interception in space inside Iceland territory, he broke clear after beating another defender with his shere power. And with just the 'keeper to beat, he struck the ball with purpose past Petursson and turned away to the crowd, kissing the Three Lions in celebration.
Butland needed to be at his best to prevent an almost immediate response from Iceland when Jóhannsson struck a low effort from the edge of the box. The on-loan Cheltenham stopper got a solid hand behind the ball to push it firmly away.
Chamberlain was twice scuppered by the Iceland No.1 in the closing ten minutes. First, the Arsenal man looked odds on to score after Sordell’s pass had set him through one-on-one. As he went around the 'keeper, Petursson’s outstretched hand was enough to guide the ball away from goal and gave his defence enough time to recover.
Then, on 86 minutes, after bringing down a sweeping cross-field ball from substitute Gardner and cutting inside his marker, Kristinn Jonsson, Chamberlain fired in a rising angled drive which Petursson tipped over the crossbar.
But, when Dawson made it 3-0, heading home from the resulting Henderson corner for his fourth goal in just five Under-21s appearances, it looked to be game over. But that wasn’t it, as Gardner had a glorious two-minute spell with the clock ticking past 90.
First, he bent a beautiful free-kick from 25 yards past the helpless wall and into the top left-hand corner before sewing the game up in added time with his second. This time, the Aston Villa midfielder collected a pass from Chamberlain on the edge of the box before skidding a low drive beyond Petursson and England were home and hosed.
A tricky trip to Belgium now awaits, but another victory there would send Pearce into 2012 a very happy man.
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