VIDEO: Macheda steals it late for Italy
Tuesday, 08 February, 2011
Man Utd forward gives Italy a narrow victory over Young Lions.
By Jamie Bradbury in Empoli
Click here to watch highlights of the match.
A late penalty from Manchester United forward Federico Macheda gave Italy an unlikely victory over England Under-21s in Empoli.
And it was a defeat that Stuart Pearce's young side didn't deserve as Leicester City defender Ben Mee was also sent off for the foul that presented the Azzurrini with their only shot on target in the second half from the spot.
Despite a difficult start to the trip to Empoli which saw nine players from the original squad pull out, and then travel problems on the way to Italy that forced Pearce to abandon training plans, England were bright throughout.
And with so many players missing it gave a chance for new players to impress, with a first cap for Joe Bennett, full debuts for Josh McEachran and Mee and Under-21 bows for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jay Rodriguez and Jon Howson.
Italy, who for much of the game played like the away side, saw Roberto Soriano and Gianvito Misuraca both have chances inside ten minutes, but the first was off target and the second well dealt with by Frank Fielding in the England goal.
That was the only save Fielding had to make during the 90 minutes as England began to take charge.
But the story of the Three Lions' week got even more frustrating, particularly for Jack Rodwell, as the Everton midfielder - filling in at centre back due to the squad withdrawals - pulled up with an injury after 12 minutes. Burnley midfielder Jack Cork came on as his replacement highlighting his versatility and alongside Mee ensure that Italy were given little chance in front of goal.
At the other end efforts were few and far between but England forward trio of James Vaughan with Aston Villa pair Marc Albrighton and Nathan Delfouneso either side tried their best to get in behind the Italy defence.
Albrighton was looking his usual lively self and had a fierce drive from the right, but cut across the ball and it drifted wide.
Henri Lansbury, who went in goal in the last game in Germany after Jason Steele was sent off, had a decent attempt from a 30-yard free-kick, though the keeper Carlo Pinsoglio was happy to see the ball go over.
England were controlling the play, with the tidy McEachran working well alongside the industrious captain Fabrice Muamba and Lansbury. Meanwhile, debutant Bennett was enjoying his first foray at Under-21 level, showing composure at left-back as well as some neat turns and Cork's coolness under pressure at the back allowed him to take care of anything Italy had to offer.
Albrighton was presented with a glorious opening inside the first minute. A good England passing move orchestrated by McEachran set the Villa man up inside the area but his control, for once, let him down.
Macheda, who is on loan at Sampdoria, was having a quiet afternoon under the watchful eyes of Cork and central defensive partner Mee, but did manage to open up space for a shot on the left. Fielding was untroubled, watching the ball hit the side netting.
Pearce then handed out three debuts with half an hour left. Burnley's Rodriguez, Leeds United's Howson and Southampton's Oxlade-Chamberlain all coming on.
Rodriguez's first touch was good, beginning an England attack on the right and he almost latched on to a Chamberlain pass in the area minutes later, but was held off by Michele Camporesi.
Chamberlain, whose dad Mark represented England at Senior and Under-21 level and actually scored against Italy in the first leg of the 1984 European Championship semi-final, was soon demonstrating his potential on the left.
At every opportunity the 17-year-old attacked right-back Alessandro Crescenzi with confidence and almost set up the opener, but Luca Caldirola cleared from danger.
He was also played into a good position for a shot by McEachran but hit a tame snatched effort at Pinsoglio when he probably had more time.
McEachran then split the Italian defence with a glorious through-ball for substitute Scott Sinclair but the keeper was out to narrow the angle.
Sinclair then fired another arrowed effort from a Kieran Trippier pass that was sneaking inside the post, but Pinsoglio saved well.
And England were to rue their missed opportunities with three minutes left as a long ball forward caught out the defence.
Italy substitute Niccolo Giannetti was through one-on-one but Mee raced back to challenge. Unfortunately, though, it was deemed unfair by the Spanish official who pointed the the spot and reached for his red card.
Macheda dispatched well, to the delight of the home crowd, ending England's visit in disappointment.