In a remarkable game tonight in Sweden against the hosts, the strong England U21 side just scraped through to the final, winning the match on penalties 5-4 – after extra time.
Hero Joe Hart – changed the game by saving and then immediately scoring penalty
But the youngster misses the final
And it looked like it would be so easy as England were 3-0 up at the half, and one goal up after the first minute through Cranie, who fired in a left-foot shot that beat easily goalkeeper Johan Dahlin.
The after 24 minutes Gabby Agbonlahor of Aston Villa received a yellow card and that means he will miss Monday’s final, but this is a team game and all the lads contribute to the success or failure of the team.
Then after 27 minutes England were 2-0 up and it was a corner from the left, that Bengtsson failed to deal with, and Man City’s Nedum Onuoha controlled the ball beautifully, and then brilliantly turned on the ball to fire low past the Swedish goalkeeper. A great goal by England.
And on 36 minutes England were 3-0 up and presumably though to the final when another corner was punched away from under his own bar by Johan Dahlin and Lee Cattermole of Wigan put the ball back into the six yard box and Mattias Bjarsmyr deflected the ball past his own keeper. They all count.
So half time came and it all looked like a stroll in the park for the England youngsters.
And even with just 30 minutes to go England still held their 3-0 goal lead. But then on 61 minutes Guillermo Molins beat Arsenal’s Kieran Gibbs down the Sweden right and Marcus Berg slotted in from eight yards.
Then on 69 minutes Ola Toivonen picked himself up, after being fouled outside the box, and from the free kick he curled it nicely over the wall and into the corner of the net, past a despairing Joe Hart dive.
So it’s 3-2 and England’s mental frailties are starting to show through once again, and the lads are showing why England seem to fail to win tournaments – they just seem to lack confidence in these big games.
Sweden then completed a truly astonishing comeback. Guillermo Molins crossed from the right and Robin Soder flicked it back at the far post and Marcus Berg crashed the ball for his second goal in the back of the net and it was amazingly 3-3.
The lads held out quite well and at least got to extra time, which given the ascendancy of Sweden was good for the England team.
Then on 102 minutes rumored Newcastle target Fraizer Campbell lunged in for a ridiculous tackle on the byeline, and managed to get his second yellow card and was sent off. That was pure lack of experience, and he’ll learn from that rather infantile error tonight.
Then on 112 minutes a looping header from Berg was over goalkeeper Hart, but the ball came back off the cross-bar and England held on, otherwise it would have been Berg the Swedish hero with a hat-trick.
And then extra time ended and it was to penalties.
England started with Milner and we had been told by Stuart Pearce how England had been preparing for a potential penalty shoot-out. Milner came in and slipped on his behind as the ball went high and wide to the right, very similar to that David Beckham miss of a few years ago.
But then Man City goalkeeper Joe Hart produced some magic for England .
First of all he saved two goal Berg’s penalty kick with his feet, got straight up, went to the penalty spot just one pace back from the ball – waited for the referee to say go, and he belted the ball into the back of the net.
He as much said to his team-mates- hey this is what we need to do lads, and that was a fillip for the England youngsters, no doubt about it.
England were 1-0 up on penalties, and didn’t miss another one, to their great credit, and credit too to coach Stuart Pearce for ensuring they were ready for another penalty shoot-out.
But it was Joe Hart who turned the penalties in England’s favor and it was good to see that mental strength after he saved then scored a goal, and he turned it around for England and they got out of jail. It was Molins who missed for Sweden, when he hit Joe Hart’s right hand upright, and the lads were though.
But with the penalties at 3-2, the referee gave Joe Hart a yellow card, presumably for gamesmanship, and now Joe will miss the final on Monday.
We hope England appeal this because hey, there’s nothing wrong with trying to put the opposition off, and it was a very harsh decision by the referee, and uncalled for. They have to be able to do something to have a chance to save a shot from 12 yards out.
But this game will do England a world of good, because after seemingly giving the game away they hung in and got the result – all’s well that ends well – comes to mind. And you can believe if they get 3-0 up on Monday in the final, they will not let their concentration waver.
In the end the lads saved the game, when they could so easily have gone out of the competition.
Joe Hart will be on a season-long loan deal to Birmingham City next season, and he looks an England goalkeeper of the future, having just turned 22, and he’s played 50 games for Man City and 54 games before that for Shrewsbury Town, his home town club. Shrewsbury would have been proud of him tonight.
The lads did well, after almost coming a cropper, and deserve praise for sticking it out and showing some guts, and finally getting through to the final.
Well done lads!!