Israel 1-0 England
England finished a miserable European Under-21 Championship campaign with a third straight defeat in the Group Stage, after Ofir Kriaf hit a late winner for the hosts, Israel in Jerusalem.
Stuart Pearce’s side were desperate to finish the campaign with not only a win but at least a point, England headed into the game having already been knocked out after defeats to Italy and Norway.
England, who in qualifying, averaged three goals per game, returned home without a single point and with just one goal.
Pearce elected to field many youngsters with Jonjo Shelvey and Zaha the only senior presence, but Pearce may take some comfort from the fact that England once again created more chances and had more shots on target than the opposition.
Just as they did against Norway, England enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening 15 minutes, but failed to make it count, Connor Wickham and Tom Ince both failed to connect to a Shelvey cross after the Liverpool man got in behind Israel.
The first half was all England and the Three Lions carved out their best move of the whole tournament just before the break. Manchester United’s Zaha, danced clear of two defenders before sliding the ball through for Ince who was one vs one, but his shot was well saved by Boris Kleyman, who then reacted to deny Zaha’s follow-up.
Half time, 0-0, England were very much dominating the game. After the interval the hosts, Israel, who were humbled 4-0 by Italy on Saturday, turned the heat up and were much more menacing.
Nir Biton stung the crossbar from 35 yards in the 57th minute, later on Zaguri collected a loose ball after a mistake from England keeper Jason Steele, but the wingers’ first time lob from 40 yards was punched away by the recovering Steele.
Then on 80 minutes, the goal to sink England into the abyss. Biton the Israel captain, started a neat move which resulted in winger Kriaf curling home a 20 yard beauty into the corner.
The goal caused Israel coach Guy Luzon, to sink to his knees. Luzon who was taking charge of his final game, left Israel to take over at Standard Liege.
In the other game in Group A, a goal by Andrea Bertolacci in the fourth minute of stoppage time against Norway, earned Italy a point in a thrilling 1-1 draw. Italy finished top with 7 points, Norway an impressive second on 5. Israel finished 3rd with 4 and England bottom with a horrid 0.
After the game Pearce stated, “I honestly don’t believe I should be here answering questions on behalf of the players, They should be here answering questions on why their performances were so poor, to be honest with you”
“I don’t think it’s my responsibility at this stage to answer for a performance as bad as that. We’ve lost games before, but collectively in this tournament we haven’t delivered for whatever reason. The players have to come out and be strong and ask themselves ‘how am I going to get better?”
Pearce concluded, “If you don’t turn up and work hard enough in any given tournament, you won’t get any success and that was typical of today and probably the two games prior to it.”
3 defeats in the Group Stage have certainly raised questions about Stuart Pearces’ future with the U21s. The former Manchester City manager is out of contract at the end of the month and is due to have talks about his future with the FA in the next two weeks.