Denmark 2011 – Day Six Review – Lacklustre England crash out against resolute Czechs
England crashed out of the UEFA Under-21 Championships following late drama in the Group B clash in Viborg. With just two minutes remaining, the Three Lions looked set for a third consecutive semi-final appearance, with Danny Welbeck’s 76th minute header putting them in front of the Czech Republic. But Jan Chramosta poked home an equaliser in the 89th minute, and then as England chased the game, Tomas Pekhart rounded off a breakaway to tap in the winner with the last kick of the game and send Stuart Pearce’s side home, and themselves into a semi-final against Switzerland on Wednesday.
England needed the victory to progress and dominated possession of the ball, but lacked the necessary penetration to cause the Czechs any real problems. With just a point required, the Czechs were more than happy to sit back and soak up any pressure. In fact the Czech Republic had the first real opportunity of the game with Lukas Marecek denied by a fine save from Frank Fielding, the Derby stopper reacting well to turn the Anderlecht midfielder’s volley over the bar.
England were caught between two stools, wanting to play a patient possession game, but too often trying to force a pass or knock a long ball into space. With a lack of real movement from Welbeck, and no real width being provided by Scott Sinclair and Tom Cleverley, England found themselves too often going down cul-de-sacs. Scott Sinclair did force goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik into a fine save five minutes before half time, cutting in from the left and striking a powerful effort from the edge of the box which was tipped over the bar.
The second half saw the Czechs even happier to sit and hold what they had, knowing that with Spain 2-0 up over the Ukraine, the semi-final spot was in their hands. England were forced to up the tempo and try to create some openings. However, England were trying to be too cute in their own half, Chris Smalling in particular almost caught in possession on a couple of occasions. In the forward areas, England were too predictable and created nothing.
As the game entered its closing 15 minutes, England finally struck. Daniel Sturridge, easily England’s most creative player produced a delightful cross from the left for Danny Welbeck to rise and head home from six yards out. The question was whether the Czech’s could change their game plan so late in the game, and Coach Jakub Dovalil had no option but to throw on strikers Charmosta and Pekhart to try to grab the crucial goal. For 14 minutes it looked like they would make no impact, but then Marcel Gecov beat a tackle on the edge of the box, and his cross was deflected into the path of Chramosta to deliver the hammer blow which effectively put England out.
The other game saw Spain beat the Ukraine 3-0 with a double from World Cup winner Juan Mata sandwiching Adrian Lopez’s third of the tournament to seal a semi-final clash with Belarus.