England 4-0 Sweden
A brace from Tom Ince and strikes from Jonjo Shelvey and Connor Wickham seal win
By Jamie Bradbury in Walsall
Goals from Tom Ince, Jonjo Shelvey and Connor Wickham extended England Under-21s’ winning streak to a record seven games as they eased past Sweden.
It was a commanding performance from Stuart Pearce’s young Lions, who are building to what promises to be an exciting summer.
The form England have shown since their last defeat nearly 15 months ago will keep confidence high in the dressing room ahead of Euro 2013 in June.
And even the wet and windy conditions in Walsall couldn’t dampen their desire to impress the boss with places on the plane to Israel up for grabs.
Victory never looked in doubt after Ince scored twice either side of Jonjo Shelvey’s second. Wickham sealed the win late on to send the 9000-strong crowd home happy.
The Three Lions threatened a couple of times in the early stages through two of the four Liverpool players in the side, Shelvey and captain Jordan Henderson.
First Shelvey sent an 18-yard effort high over the bar, then he turned provider for the newly crowned Under-21s Player of the Year. Henderson’s header, though, squirmed wide.
But it took less than ten minutes for England to go in front, and it was Ince with his first goal for the Under-21s who got it.
Adam Smith attacked down the right before rolling a perfect delivery across the face of goal for the Blackpool man to slide home.
His dad sitting in the stands, former England midfielder Paul, was beaming with pride, a broad smile across his face.
Shelvey should have then made it two, but somehow missed a simple header two yards out following Henderson’s cross. But after seeing his form in training at St. George’s Park the day before, it seemed almost inevitable he’d get his name on the score sheet.
And he did on the half-hour mark. After recent Old Trafford recruit Wilfried Zaha came close with an effort which was saved by the feet of Andreas Linde, Shelvey’s chance came.
Yet again, it was the pace of Ince and Smith down the right that carved open the opportunity. Initially playing the pass for the overlapping Millwall defender, Ince received Smith’s cross inside the area, but scuffed a looping ball into the six yard box off a Swedish defender.
Shelvey was on hand, however, to prod past Linde and into the net off the underside of the bar.
With five minutes left of the first half it was 3-0, and no less than England deserved. A dominant period of pace and power was capped by Ince’s second and it was the mark of a man in flying form, though it first took Josh McEachran to miss his penalty.
A sublime deep pass from Henderson dropped over the head of the last defender, Filip Helander, to the feet of Ince. His first touch took him into the box, but he was tripped by the Malmo man. McEachran’s spot-kick was stopped, but Ince was sharpest to react tucking away the loose ball.
Pearce made for changes at half time, and it was clear to see the newcomers and their bright white shirts against the wet and muddied attire of those from the first period.
Will Hughes, Henri Lansbury and Wickham came into the fray in place of Henderson, Shelvey and Benik Afobe. There was also a debut for Norwich City keeper Declan Rudd, who replaced the largely redundant Steele. Craig Dawson now had the armband.
What hadn’t changed was England’s attacking intentions and Ince nearly bagged his hat-trick as they pushed for more goals. Wickham squared from the right hand side for Ince, sliding again on the soggy surface, but this time Linde smothered.
A rare Swedish strike on 67 minutes, just after Young Player of the Year Nat Chalobah was introduced, almost threatened another England record, having not shipped a goal since the defeat to Belgium in November 2011. However, Andreas Blomqvist’s drive whistled past Rudd’s post.
Connor Wickham finally added to England’s tally with 15 minutes left, heading home from Lansbury’s inswinger from the left for his fourth in five games for Pearce’s boys.
It wrapped up a positive night for England with 18 players all featuring, and performing well, to give Pearce much to ponder as they move closer to Israel and Euro 2013.
England Under-21s Team
1 Jason Steele (13 Declan Rudd, 46), 2 Adam Smith (12 Tom Lees 75), 3 Jack Robinson, 4 Josh McEachran (14 Nat Chalobah, 67), 5 Andre Wisdom, 6 Craig Dawson, 7 Tom Ince, 8 Jordon Henderson (c) (15 Will Hughes, 46), 9 Wilfried Zaha (17 Jason Lowe, 58), 10 Jonjo Shelvey (16 Henri Lansbury, 46), 11 Benik Afobe (18 Connor Wickham, 46)
Sub not used 19 Ben Amos
Sweden Under-21s Team
1 Andreas Linde (GK), 2 Mattias Johansson, 3 Alexander Milosevic, 4 Filip Helander, 5 Tobias Malm, 6 Branimir Hrgota, 7 Joel Allansson, 8 Oscar Hiljemark (c), 9 Mathias Andersson, 10 Christoffer Nyman, 11 Mikael Ishak
Subs 12 August Stromberg (GK), 13 Jonathan Azulay, 14 Emil Bergstrom, 15 Andreas Blomqvist, 16 Nicklas Barkroth, 17 Sam Larsson, 18 Amin Nazari,
Felix Zwayer (GER)
Stefan Lupp and Marcel Pelgrim (GER)
David Coote (ENG)