As Stuart Pearce boards the plane that would take him and his squad back to England there are a lot of questions hanging around from their display at the U21 European Championship. They went into their final game against Israel hoping to avoid the wooden spoon, hoping that they could put on a display which wouldn’t make so many question so much about the U21 National set up.
Israel (4-2-3-1): Kleyman, Verta, Ben Harush, Davidzada, Krieff, Biton (C), Sallalich, Dabbur, Zaguri, Turgeman.
Subs Used: Altman, Azam, Barouch
England (4-2-3-1): Steele, Clyne, Wisdom (C), Lees, Rose, Chalobah, McEachran, Zaha, Shelvey, Ince, Wickham
Subs Used: Henderson, Redmond, Sordell
The game, held at the Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, started once again with England looking bright and full of attacking promise; Wilfried Zaha on the right tried to look dangerous and cross and at one point Jonjo Shelvey did, Connor Wickham left it to Thomas Ince who missed the ball and fell over. Jonjo Shelvey, restored to the starting line up, tried to make an impact; he made a power run and found Ince who had his shot blocked before Shelvey himself put the ball over.
England were dictating a quick tempo in the early going with lots of quick passing and everyone was looking to be involved. A good move from the back saw Danny Rose get forward, the ball found Wilfried Zaha on the left, Rose made his way into the penalty area between two Israel defenders as the cross came in and the ball fell to the Tottenham man, who put the shot quite a bit wide of the mark. Just after the half hour Zaha clipped a nice through ball for Ince who was denied by Boris Kleyman in the Israel goal. Zaha followed up with a header which was also saved.
For the second half Thomas Ince was replaced by Jordan Henderson, somewhat surprising given Ince’s impact in the first period. The second half saw positive work from McEachran and Zaha as they combined before a blocked shot from Connor Wickham and it was the Sunderland striker that benefited when Jonjo Shelvey broke up an Israel attack, Andre Wisdom sprang forward and Wickham caressed a 25 yard curler, it went just over the bar.
Judging by Israel’s response they didn’t want to be out done by Wickham’s shot from distance and they went close to taking the lead just before the hour through Biton; as England backed off, Israel’s captain unleashed a thunderous shot which smacked the crossbar and rebounded the full 35 yards back to him. That shot was good enough for any team to take the lead, and Israel grew in confidence as a result, Verta shot wide and there was a panicky moment from Luke Steele before they did eventually trouble the scoreboard operator; Nir Biton played a one two and curls the return pass into the bottom corner.
With that the fat lady sang and as Bruce Springsteen once said ‘man, that was all she wrote’. At the point of writing I still don’t know if Tom Ince was injured but I think he had to be because England missed him in the second half and you have to think Pearce wouldn’t make that change unless he had to. Annoyingly again, England looked all set to make put the ball in the net, they attacked with promise but never converted. There isn’t many of that England squad that can be happy with their performance tonight or over the tournament in general.
Forget all talk about players who should have been at this tournament and were absent, it has no bearing on anything because the players who were selected should have had enough to qualify.
Man of the Match:
Biton – that shot was class and when Israel decided to go for it, it all seemed to go through him, scoring the winning goal to boot.