A Mason Bennett goal defeats Switzerland as England move into Elite Round
England 1-0 Switzerland
UEFA European U19 Championship
First Qualifying Round
2pm, Tuesday 15 October 2013
Mestni Stadium, Ptuj, Slovenia
By Jamie Reid
England beat Switzerland 1-0 in the final game of their UEFA European U19 Championship first qualifying round – to top the group and progress to the Elite Round.
Mason Bennett’s third goal in three games and a resolute display of defensive football in the second half was enough to put Noel Blake’s side through as group winners.
Blake made seven changes to the team that beat Andorra 7-0 in the second qualifying game
- and the Young Lions looked fresh, hungry and determined from the first blast of the referee’s whistle.
Arsenal’s Chuba Akpom started the game in the centre of a front three, flanked either side by Bennett of Derby County and Manchester United youngster James Wilson.
And the three almost combined in the opening seconds. Wilson picked out Akpom, who found himself in space on the right – he squared to Bennett in the centre, but his shot was well blocked by Nico Elvedi.
Two minutes later Loftus-Cheek beat right-back Michael Goncalves and fired a shot towards goal – only to see it deflected into the path of Wilson, who struck the loose ball against the post from close range – however it wouldn’t have counted as he was adjudged to be in an offside position.
The Swiss lost their captain Goncalves to concussion on 12 minutes after he was struck in the face by the ball from close range - Marvin Graf came on and Saidy Janko, normally a winger, dropped back to the right side of defence.
Bennett sensed a weakness, and continued to find joy against his new opponent, as he looked to exploit the makeshift defense. With 20 minutes gone he beat his man and cutt the ball inside to John Swift, but the Chelsea man was crowded out before he could get his shot away. It was another good chance for England as they continued to grow in confidence, against a side that had set up to defend and hit on the break.
After dominating the opening half, on 34 minutes the Young Lions made the breakthrough their positive play richly deserved. Wilson broke on the right, cut inside and found himself bearing down on Novem Baumann’s goal – his shot was well saved by the Swiss keeper, but the rebound fell kindly to Bennett who confidently fired home to put England into a deserved lead at the break.
Both teams made changes at the break, Carlton Morris replaced Akpom up front, with Wilson moving into the vacant centre-forward berth. The Swiss, meanwhile, brought an additional forward, Francisco Rodriguez, into the mix.
After withholding an early bout of Swiss pressure, it was England who again threatened. Wilson and Loftus-Cheek combined up front, with the latter latching on to a clever flick and was left with a clear sight of goal – only to fire just over with a powerful right-foot effort.
Switzerland finally began to impart a spot of adventure into their play. The little and large central-midfield pairing of the diminutive Ming Yang Yang and athletic Mirsad Hasanovic at the heart of everything they did.
For a while the Swiss huffed and puffed but rarely looked like troubling Mitchell Beeney in the England goal – 66 minutes passed before the Chelsea stopper was called into action – and he was alert to a low strike by Rodriguez to make a fine save low to his right.
It was a sign of things to come.
Moments later Switzerland threatened again. Omar Thali was picked out in space wide on the left, he cut inside tried to get a shot away – but his attempt was brilliantly blocked by Manchester City starlet Shay Facey.
The pressure continued to mount - Shani Tarashaj’s goalbound shot was bravely blocked by Adam Webster, and Thali’s effort from the resulting corner was scrambled away.
It was backs-to-the-wall time for England as the game entered the final minutes, and with seconds remaining, Beeney made a spectacular fingertip save from a Rodriguez header – and that would be that.
Noel Blake’s Young Lions stayed resolute under the face of fierce pressure, to top the group and proceed to join Europe’s elite U19 sides in the spring of 2014.
1 Mitchell Beeney, 2 Calum Chambers, 3 Harry Toffolo, 5 Adam Webster, 6 Isaac Hayden, 7 John Swift (8 Ben Pearson, 79), 9 James Wilson, 10 Chuba Akpom (17 Carlton Morris, 46) 12 Mason Bennett, 14 Ruben Loftus-Cheek (4 Lewis Baker, 60), 15 Shay Facey.
Substitutes not used
11 Jordon Ibe, 13 Luke Coddington, 16 Jake Cooper, 18 Josh Murphy.
1 Novem Baumann, 2 Michael Goncalves (C) (17 Marvin Graf, 12), 3 Thomas Fraga, 4 Ahmet Ozcan, 5 Nico Elvedi, 6 Ming Yang Yang (10 Miguel Castroman, 68), 7 Saidy Janko, 8 Mirsad Hasanovic, 9 Shani Tarashaj, 11 Omar Thali, 13 Nicolas Stettler (15 Francisco Rodriguez, 46).
Substitutes not used
12 Pascal Albrecht, 14 Olivier Custodio, , 16 Marko Drakul, 18 Boris Cespedes.
Head Coach Gérard Castella
Referee Oleksandr Derdo (Ukraine)