Ten-man England cruise to 4-0 win in Elite Round opener.
England 4-0 Sweden
UEFA European U17 Championship
Elite Qualifying Round, Group 7
3pm, Saturday 27 March 2010
Sixfields Stadium, Northampton Town FC
England got their Elite Qualifying Round campaign off to a solid start with a 4-0 victory over Sweden at Sixfields Stadium, and they had to battle for most of the second half a man shy after goalkeeper, Sam Johnstone, was dismissed on 50 minutes.
John Peacock’s side, who are hoping to make it through to the UEFA European U17 Championship Finals which will be held in Liechtenstein in May, took the lead in the 21st minute through Connor Wickham. The young Ipswich Town forward turned neatly on the edge of the box and drilled a left-foot shot into the corner of the net which squirmed under Sweden goalkeeper, Davor Blazevic.
Benik Afobe headed the second just after the half-hour mark from a Josh McEachran free-kick and substitute, Robert Hall, grabbed a third on 72 minutes with a fantastic individual effort, beating Blazevic at his near post. William Keane sealed the victory in added time, turning home Hall’s cross from seven yards.
This win satisfies Peacock’s desire for three points from the opening Group 7 game, three points he believes can prove extremely beneficial in such a short-format tournament.
England’s remaining matches see them take on Malta at Burton Albion on Monday evening before entertaining Slovakia on Thursday, back at Sixfields.
The Young Lions grabbed control of the game early on, largely by winning their midfield battles. George Thorne and Conor Coady were able to find themselves a yard of space in the centre of the pitch while McEachran offered creativity and guile on the left. After some very neat footwork, the Chelsea youngster almost crafted a good opportunity for Afobe in the eleventh minute, but Blazevic collected the clever through ball on the edge of the area.
With England enjoying the lions’ share of possession, the visitors were initially forced to resort to long balls and those of which were not dealt with by centre-backs, Andre Wisdom and Nathaniel Chalobah, ran out of play.
On 19 minutes, however, Sweden had the first real chance of the match from a corner. Robin Tranberg’s low centre to the edge of the area was miscued by Lucas Ohlander but the skipper, Carlos Garcia picked up the loose ball and fired goalwards, only to see his shot parried and eventually gathered by Johnstone.
Boosted by this effort, just two minutes later the visitors came even closer, when some neat build-up play involving Ohlander and Simon Hedlund allowed Anton Sandberg Magnusson a strike at goal but his effort just clipped the outside of the post.
If that was the scare that England needed to re-stamp their authority on proceedings, Wickham duly provided the remedy, though Blazevic will be disappointed with his role in the opening goal.
Wickham received a pass from McEachran just outside the area, shrugged off the attentions of Garcia and struck a low, left-foot shot into the far corner. Although the strike was clean, Blazevic should have held it comfortably but he somehow contrived to let the ball slip under his body, presenting the hosts with a 1-0 lead midway through the first half.
Wickham might have doubled his, and England’s tally, moments later, but his header, unmarked from a Bruno Pilatos cross, landed on the roof of the net.
On 32 minutes the advantage was doubled and it came courtesy of Wickham’s strike partner, Afobe. McEachran clipped a 25-yard free-kick into the box from a fairly central position, inviting any one of a posse of players to head it and it was Afobe who rose highest, directing the ball into the top corner for his fifth goal in Euro qualifying.
Just five minutes into the second half, Wickham found himself out wide on the right and he sent in a teasing cross to the back post but Afobe’s instep sent the ball over the bar.
On 50 minutes, Sweden’s chances of taking something from the game were increased by the sending off of Johnstone for a trip on Hedlund. The Sweden forward was chasing a through ball and he nicked it ahead of Johnstone, sending the ball towards the corner flag. Johnstone made slight contact with Hedlund, and though Hedlund attempted to stay on his feet he eventually fell, sprawling to the ground. England had two defenders back on the line, but the referee, Ioannis Anastasiou, showed Johnstone the red card for the denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
Afobe was sacrificed for Jack Butland, the substitute goalkeeper, and his first contribution was to hold on to Tranberg’s subsequent free-kick.
Unperturbed by their numerical disadvantage England still sought what would have been a decisive third goal and they almost had it when Keane raced on to a through ball from Thorne. The Manchester United midfielder carried the ball into the area and slipped it beyond Blazevic, only for the foot of the post to intervene.
With just eight minutes remaining, substitute, Hall - on for the impressive McEachran - confirmed the three points with a wonderful solo effort. He collected the ball on the right flank and raced towards goal, cutting in on his left foot. He sped past Jonathan Akerman Berndtsson and Erik Berthagen and lifted the ball beyond Blazevic from an acute angle.
It was just left for Keane to round things off in added time with a fourth goal, turning home Hall’s cut back from the right.
1 Sam Johnstone, 3 Luke Garbutt, 4 Conor Coady (C), 5 Nathaniel Chalobah, 6 Andre Wisdom, 7 William Keane, 8 George Thorne (16 Harry Kane, 75), 9 Benik Afobe (13 Jack Butland, 51), 14 Bruno Pilatos, 15 Josh McEachran (11 Robert Hall, 63), 17 Connor Wickham
Substitutes not used 2 Louis Laing, 10 Chuks Aneke, 12 Jack Robinson, 18 Saido Berahino
Goals Connor Wickham 21, Benik Afobe 32, Robert Hall 72, William Keane 80+1
Head Coach John Peacock
1 Davor Blazevic, 2 Mattias Pavic, 3 Jonathan Akerman Berndtsson, 4 Erik Berthagen, 5 Robin Tranberg, 6 Mans Soderqvist, 8 Carlos Garcia (C), 9 Anton Sandberg Magnusson (17 Tobias Lewicki, 41), 10 Lucas Ohlander (13 Karl Holmberg, 73), 11 Simon Hedlund, 16 Mathias Jung (18 Erik Tornros, 58)
Substitutes not used 7 Jonathan Azulay, 12 Kevin Angleborn, 14 Nikola Ladan, 15 Sebastian Moller
Head Coach Tomas Turesson
Referee Ioannis Anastasiou (CYP)
Assistant Referees Igor Krmar (CRO) & Stelios Nikita (CYP)
Fourth Official Igor Pristovnik