• European Under-21 Championship

England crash out without win

ESPN staff
June 11, 2013

As if an early exit was not bad enough, England Under-21s suffered further embarrassment as European Championship hosts Israel 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 not only put the knock-out stage beyond England heading into their Group A finale against Israel, but 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.

The Israelis showed much more drive, determination and appetite than an insipid England side, who deservedly went behind to a Ofir Krieff goal with ten minutes remaining.

The 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.

The Young Lions boss chose a side with the next few years in mind on a balmy night in Jerusalem, despite his own future being up in the air.

Josh McEachran, Connor Wickham and Andre Wisdom were among seven players in the starting line-up eligible for the next Under-21s tournament, with the latter captaining the side in place of Liverpool team-mate Jordan Henderson.

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 Nathaniel Clyne deflected a hopeful Israel Zaguri strike behind for a corner.

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 Krieff 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 from the rebound.

Wickham saw his attempt to put the loose ball in blocked and then fizzed wide as half-time approached, with Zaha denied by Kleyman at his near post.

Pearce brought on regular captain Henderson in place of Ince when the teams re-emerged, with Wickham curling just wide from 25 yards shortly after the restart.

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.

Verta fired just wide of the far post as the hosts continued to threaten and England continued to struggle.

Despite a squad boasting multi-million pound players, the Young Lions were devoid of ideas and looked to be lacking appetite.

Zaguri was the next to try his luck, spotting Steele off his line but not quite managing to lift it over the England goalkeeper.

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 Krieff, who lashed home a low effort from 20 yards with ten minutes remaining.

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, as Pearce's side went home in shame.

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