Young Lions denied win by resilient French
Tuesday, 03 May, 2011
England denied victory by French in thrilling Euro opener.
Nicholas Veevers at FK Indjija
England and France shared the spoils in their European U17 Championship opener in Serbia, after an enthralling contest in which both teams will feel they could have secured the full three points.
The Young Lions were twice in the lead in Indjija through Hallam Hope and Nick Powell and looked on course for victory, only for a late French fightback to deny them the result. By the same token though, France could also have won it in the last minute when the cross-bar came to England’s rescue following a free-kick from Abdallah Yaisien.
It was almost a disastrous start for England who had to rely on a fine save from Jordan Pickford within the first minute of the game. French dangerman Yaisien was picked out in the area pretty much straight from kick-off and when he found some space in the area and fired a shot at goal, Pickford somehow got a strong hand to it and saved from point blank range.
England soon showed what they had to offer and with wingers Alex Henshall and Nathan Redmond looking lively on the left and right respectively, the French defence had plenty to think about. On one occasion, Redmond did well on the right to cross into the centre and French skipper Raphael Calvet could only miscue his clearance over the bar at the expense of a corner.
Two minutes later and England were in front. The ball was worked wide to Henshall and he found enough room to drag a low cross-shot at goal. French ‘keeper Quentin Beunardeau didn’t get anywhere near it and Hope was there to knock home from a matter of yards.
The French hit back quickly though and they drew level just after the quarter-hour mark when big forward Sebastien Haller connected superbly with a pacy ball in from the left. With the velocity on the cross, coupled with the striker’s volley towards the top corner, Pickford had no chance whatsoever.
John Peacock had told his players ahead of the game to try and test Beunardeau at every opportunity and it was clear that the French defence didn’t hold a great deal of confidence in their goalkeeper either.
That became completely apparent in the 28th minute when a mix-up between Adrien Tameze Aoutsa and Beunardeau under pressure from Hope saw the ball headed back by the defender and off the chest of Beunardeau. It landed at the feet of Powell just outside the area and he made no mistake by lifting a perfect lob over the French ‘keeper and into the net to restore England’s lead at the break.
Predictably, France came out for the second half looking to get themselves level and it took another great save from Pickford in the 49th minute to deny them as he turned Lenny Nangis’ low shot away from goal. It fell back out to Haller, who powered a shot at goal but he found Brad Smith well-placed on the line to clear again.
Peacock’s side were still looking dangerous though and Calvet somehow cleared from within his own six yard box under pressure when Powell had done well to break in from the right and roll the ball across goal.
It was then Henshall who delivered another teasing cross from the left which went agonisingly past Hope and across to safety as the French hung on.
That proved to be crucial too, as just a few minutes later, they were back level and it was Haller again who got up in front of Pickford to nod home from close range, despite the best efforts of Adam Jackson on the line.
Peacock introduced fresh legs in the shape of Adam Morgan and Max Clayton in order to try and retake the lead for a third time but it was France who finished the stronger and they came within the width of the cross-bar of nicking it in the last minute as Yaisien crashed a 30 yard free-kick against the woodwork.