Young Lions lose again
As if an early exit was not bad enough, England Under-21s suffered further embarrassment as European Championship hosts Israel claimed a 1-0 win and sent Stuart Pearce's side home without a point.
Having arrived on a run of nine successive wins without conceding, the tournament has been nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for the Young Lions. The 1-0 opening day defeat to Italy was labelled "awful" by Pearce, who then saw his side suffer a shock 3-1 defeat to Norway.
It was a result that put the knock-out stage beyond England heading into the Group A finale against Israel, which they lost courtesy of Ofir Kriaf's goal with 10 minutes remaining.
The poor campaign has also seriously harmed Pearce's chances of holding onto the Under-21s job. The former international full-back's contract expires at the end of the month but, despite making his desire to stay public, there have been few positive noises from the Football Association.
Pearce had a lengthy pitch-side chat with outgoing FA chairman David Bernstein ahead of a first half in which England enjoyed more possession but Israel looked sharper. The hosts were also looking more inventive, epitomised in the second half by a wonderful 30-yard strike by former Manchester City trialist Nir Biton that rattled the crossbar.
Kriaf's strike proved decisive as Israel ran out victors at the Teddy Stadium, sending England home with their worst ever record at an Under-21 tournament and leaving Pearce's position looking more precarious than ever. England started the brighter and would have taken the lead after 12 minutes had Thomas Ince managed to connect with a Jonjo Shelvey cross.
Israel soon found their feet, though, and Jason Steele was called into action when an Ofer Verta through ball caught Danny Rose out, with Sintayehu Sallalich striking at goal from an acute angle. The Middlesbrough goalkeeper, making his final Under-21 appearance, then had to be alert to punch clear a threatening Kriaf free-kick as England struggled for ideas.
It took until the half-hour mark for the Young Lions to get any joy going forwards, with only a superb double save by Boris Kleyman keeping them at bay. Ince, put through on goal by Wilfried Zaha, was denied by the Israel goalkeeper, who reacted quickly to deny the Manchester United man from the rebound.
Israel were looking the biggest threat, though, with captain Biton coming close to the opening goal with an exquisite right-footed drive that hit the bar. Fulham's Omri Altman, on as a substitute, tried to make a name for himself soon after, making a beeline for the goal but only managing to run into the post. The hosts' pressure soon told, though.
Biton played the ball for Altman to lay off to Kriaf, who lashed home a low effort from 20 yards in the 80th minute. The Teddy Stadium erupted and manager Guy Luzon, in charge for the last time before taking over at Standard Liege, ran onto the pitch in celebration. England pushed for a later leveller but none was forthcoming.
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