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England U21 team beaten by Greece

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03 Mar 2010 20:28:03

England U21 team beaten by Greece

England's hopes of qualifying for next summer's Under-21 European Championship suffered a major blow with a 2-1 defeat against Greece in Doncaster.

Victory for Stuart Pearce's side at the Keepmoat Stadium would have taken them above their opponents to the top of Group Nine and within three points of qualifying for the play-offs. But they did not manage a meaningful effort on goal until the 35th minute, by which time they were behind to Kyriakos Papadopoulos' opener.

A defensive blunder allowed Ioannis Papadopoulos to pinch a second and a debut goal from Nathan Delfouneso 11 minutes from time came too late to prevent Pearce falling to a first home competitive defeat.

England must now beat Portugal and Lithuania in their remaining qualifying matches and hope Greece lose to Macedonia to be sure of reaching the play-offs ahead of the finals in Denmark.

The hosts struggled to create chances early on and fell behind after 28 minutes. Sokratis Papastathopoulos' header from a Ioannis Papadopoulos corner was cleared off the line by Ryan Bertrand but only as far as Kyriakos Papadopoulos, who shot home right-footed.

England upped the tempo in response and Tom Cleverley saw his 20-yard effort deflected onto the roof of the net while Lee Cattermole then tested Asterios Giakoumis after a driving run from midfield.

But the hosts would have been two down before half-time had Scott Loach not got fingertips to Anestis Argyriou's angled drive.

Things did get worse for England less than four minutes into the second half. Cattermole halted a Vasileios Koutsianikoulis run just outside the box and, as Chris Smalling tried to let the ball run through to Loach, Ioannis Papadopoulos nipped in to curl a shot into the bottom corner.

But Pearce's side did pull a goal back in the 79th minute. Kyle Walker fired in a shot from the edge of the area and Giakoumis could only push the ball out to Delfouneso, who finished confidently.

England, runners-up at the last European Championship finals in 2009, pushed for an equaliser during four minutes of injury time but failed to test Giakoumis again.


PA

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