England made sure of a place in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-offs after goals from Steven Caulker and Jonjo Shelvey earned the Group 8 leaders a 2-0 victory in Azerbaijan.
Stuart Pearce's visitors went ahead when Tottenham Hotspur FC defender Caulker headed in from Shelvey's free-kick in the 28th minute. It was Shelvey himself who settled the result with the second goal seven minutes from time, a fine finish after a ball from the right by Liverpool FC team-mate Martin Kelly.
With 18 points from a possible 21, England can look forward with confidence to Monday's final group qualifier at home against Norway, two points behind them in second. Although Norway can still pip England to top spot, Pearce's side are certain of finishing as one of the four best runners-up. As for Azerbaijan, their campaign ended with this defeat, their fifth in eight games, which leaves them in fourth place with seven points.
Azerbaijan's hopes of bowing out on a high flickered early on when from Mirhüseyin Seyidov's corner, Araz Abdullayev had an effort blocked and Cavid Imamverdiyev headed the loose ball wide. England then gained control, though, and dominated possession against opponents seemingly happy to play on the counterattack.
England could have had more goals than the two they managed: Thomas Ince and Wilfred Zaha both missed from close range while home goalkeeper Salahat Aghayev kept out a Marvin Sordell effort. Azerbaijan threatened again on the hour when Imamverdiyev broke into the box and shot over but that was as good as it got for the home side.
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