1. Disappointing Start

England U21 v Italy U21

England kicked off their European Under 21 Championship campaign against Italy last night in Tel Aviv– and this morning they will know they need a big improvement if they are to progress into the knock-out stages. Stuart Pearce’s squad may be a step away from the senior level but perhaps there are patterns that go through the national team at every level because at times last night it all seemed a bit too familiar and that’s without mentioning the ‘we can win the competition’ rhetoric coming from the camp.

England were without Tom Ince and Danny Rose through suspension, Wilfried Zaha and Henri Lansbury were both injured and Nathan Redmond was making his Under 21 debut.

Italy (4-4-2): Bardi, Donati, Bianchetti, Caldirola (C), Biraghi, Florenzi, Marrone, Verratti,  Insigne, Borini, Immobile

Subs Used:  Gabbiadini, Destro, Rossi

England (4-2-3-1): Butland, Clyne, Dawson, Caulker, Robinson, Henderson, Lowe, Redmond, Shelvey, Sordell, Wickham .

Subs Used: Chalobah, McEachran, Delfouneso

The opening exchanges were nervy with both sides guilty of giving away possession too easily, Italy’s captain Luca Caldirola chose to clear the ball rather than pass back to the ‘keeper, as England’s Jonjo Shelvey hovered with intent. The first real attempt on goal came from Italy, as they looked to build from the back Matteo Bianchetti played a lovely ball for Ciro Immobile, Craig Dawson could not catch him but the shot went wide.

Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne caused England problems as the half went on, Insigne could have put the ball in the net on more than one occasion, including a give and go where Immobile returned the ball with a diving header. Jack Butland raced out to deny the Napoli man but he remained a constantly threatening thorn in England’s side all night. Nathaniel Clyne will play better halves of football than he did in the first here, the defender got into a muddle with his ‘keeper and was tormented by, you guessed it, Insigne. Clyne tried to get England going in attack, making a forward run and leaving space which Insgine gladly exploited; he found Alessandro Florenzi who hit the deck in the area as Jack Robinson made contact. Replays show that Florenzi had nutmegged the defender and was then caught. It should have been a penalty, England were lucky.

An improved England team took to the pitch in the second half and had the ball in the net, twice incredibly. Connor Wickham finished beautifully over Bardi but was given off side and then shortly afterwards, a corner from Jonjo Shelvey went across the area to Steven Caulker who hooked it back for Dawson to nod home. Every man and his dog thought it was a goal including UEFA officials as the goal celebration music was played and the scoreboard briefly read England 1 Italy 0, but the referee saw something he didn’t like and disallowed it.

Jack Butland did well to deny Fabio Borini’s header but the Italian threat grew and when Clyne and sub Manolo Gabbiaidini came together it was England who were lucky again. The referee could have given a penalty but instead he awarded a free kick on the edge of the area; up stepped Lorenzo Insigne to curl the ball over the wall and into the top corner beyond Butland. It was placed to perfection and it’s fitting that such a goal ends England’s run of nine victories with no goals (a total of 889 minutes of play) conceded.

Nathan Redmond can be pleased with his debut and but ultimately England were deservedly second best in Bloomfield Stadium. They play Norway on Saturday and although it is unfair to put everything on the return of one player, they might just have everything crossed that Wilfried Zaha is fit to play.

Man of the Match :

Insigne – you can see why he has played so many games for Napoli this season; the good news for the England defence is he won’t be playing against them in the next game. Good hair, great goal.

Author: The Editor

I write words about things I care about and hopefully you'll care about them too when I'm done.

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