• England U21s 1-3 Norway U21s

England crash out of European U21 Championship

ESPN staff
June 8, 2013
England were simply outclassed by Norway in the 3-1 defeat © PA Photos

An under-cooked, under-performing England Under-21s saw their European Championship hopes go up in smoke, with Norway condemning Stuart Pearce's side to an embarrassing group stage exit for the second successive tournament as they ran out 3-1 winners.

The Young Lions headed to Israel on a run of nine wins on the bounce, but a miserable showing this week means they head into their final Group A game against the hosts with the knockout stages already beyond them.

Under-21s manager Pearce described the defeat to Italy as "awful'' and will likely have even stronger words to say after Norway won comfortably in Petah Tikva.

The Scandinavians, who finished five points below England in qualifying, took the lead after just 15 minutes at Ha Moshava, with inept defending allowing Fredrik Semb Berge to strike home.

Jo Inge Berget compounded a miserable first half by doubling Norway's lead after losing Steven Caulker, who saw a header disallowed late on.

Magnus Eikrem, a graduate of Manchester United's academy, slammed home off the underside of the bar as England's miserable night continued after half-time.

Craig Dawson pulled one back from the spot but it was merely a consolation against a Norway side that won so comfortably, despite starting their best four players on the bench after playing for the senior team on Friday.

That situation is a far cry from the England set-up, denied the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Phil Jones and Danny Welbeck in order to play friendlies with the senior team.

Such absentees have seen the Young Lions falter in Israel, with Norway striking the decisive blow in front of Roy Hodgson. It was hardly the response Pearce wanted after Wednesday's 1-0 defeat to Italy.

The Young Lions boss, whose contract expires at the end of the month, made five changes in Petah Tikva, where temperatures reached as high as 38 degrees Celsius before kick-off.

It soon became an evening England players will want to forget. After a bright start in which Danny Rose and Thomas Ince had early attempts, it was Norway that struck the first blow after just 15 minutes.

Having seen former Manchester City defender Omar Elabdellaoui come close minutes earlier, Eikrem hit a cross to Semb Berge, who was afforded space to turn and strike by woeful English defending.

The bad start almost got worse soon after, with a Marcus Pedersen corner finding Semb Berge, only for the defender to this time nod wide. Jordan Henderson saw penalty appeals waved away as he attempted to connect with an Adam Smith cross, before England were found wanting at the back again.

Havard Nielsen sent a wonderful dinked ball over the head of Caulker, who was left for dead as Berget struck a half-volley home.

Caulker thought he had made amends by heading in a Henderson free-kick as half-time approached, only for the offside flag to see the goal chalked off. Connor Wickham replaced Jason Lowe when the teams re-emerged for the second half in a bid to swing the game England's way.

Semb Berge denied Ince a goal 26 seconds after the restart and Norway goalkeeper Orjan Haskjold Nyland produced a fine save to deny Henderson as England started with renewed vigour. Wickham had a chance from close range shortly afterwards before Norway grabbed their third of the night.

Pedersen got the better of Dawson down the right flank and squared for Eikrem, whose powerful effort went in off the underside of the bar.

England pulled one back from the spot in the 57th minute, with Dawson striking home from the spot having been fouled by Semb Berge.

Pedersen came close to a fourth as Norway continued to threaten, especially on the counter-attack.

By now, England were throwing bodies forward and even brought on centre-back Andre Wisdom as a makeshift target man. Wilfried Zaha, Wickham and Henderson were all denied as the clock wound down, but there was to be no comeback as England's fate was confirmed.

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