Tuesday, September 7, 2010

England U21s secure play-off berth

By Mandeep Sanghera

Danny Welbeck (left) and Jordan Henderson celebrate after a goal against Lithuania
Welbeck (left) had a hand in England's three goals

England Under-21s qualified for the 2011 European Championship play-offs after they beat a stubborn Lithuania.

England had struggled to break down the visitors and Lithuania hit the post after a Mantas Fridrikas free-kick was spilled by keeper Frank Fielding.

But Danny Welbeck angled in a shot after a Jack Wilshere pass to ease the home side's nerves.

Welbeck set up Marc Albrighton to slot in at the far post before scoring from close range to secure the win.

The victory meant England scraped into the play-offs, which are in October, as one of the four best-placed runners-up after a hard-fought win based on patience and persistence.

The impressive performance of Welbeck as well as the belated introduction of Wilshere also proved key.

England knew they had to win but also that Lithuania would be a stern side to open up having been held to a goalless draw by them in the reverse fixture.

However, Daniel Sturridge had a great chance to open the scoring early on when he was found by Ryan Bertrand's cross only to scuff his shot horribly wide from 10 yards.


A Lithuania break saw Tadas Eliosius loop a shot high after a lay-off by Arturas Zulpa but the visitors were more intent on keeping England at bay and did so with an organisation and discipline the hosts struggled to breach.

Phil Jones had a header which bounced over the visitors goal and Michael Mancienne's long range strike was palmed away by keeper Vytautas Cerniauskas.

When England did engineer a sight of goal, they lacked the clinical edge to capitalise with Danny Rose failing to take another glorious chance.

Sturridge and Welbeck did well to work the opportunity for Rose just inside the area but he ballooned a shot high as he went for power rather than accuracy.

England's frustrations were almost compounded when Fielding spilled a Fridrikas free-kick, with the keeper's blushes only being spared by the ball hitting the post before being cleared.

England U21 manager Stuart Pearce had surprisingly left Wilshere out of the starting line-up but brought on the inventive midfielder for the second half as the home side intensified their efforts to score.

A Rose shot was blocked, a Cleverley shot palmed over before Sturridge was again through only to slip as he took a shot which was saved.

The deadlock was eventually broken when Wilshere slipped a lovely weighted pass into the path of Welbeck and he finished with a shot across goal.

England continued to dominate and substitute Albrighton was rewarded for a lively cameo after Welbeck slid in a cross for him to score.

Welbeck completed an influential performance when he sidefooted in from close range after Jordan Henderson's clever flick to leave a relieved England looking forward to the play-offs as other results went their way.

Potenshöjande medel - potenshöjande medel

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