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Pearce: All to play for in Serbia

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012, 11.56CET
Just a goal separates England and Serbia after their first leg and although Stuart Pearce's team have the edge, he and his players were disappointed not to have secured a healthier advantage.
by Sam Adams
from Carrow Road

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Published: Saturday 13 October 2012, 11.56CET

Pearce: All to play for in Serbia

Just a goal separates England and Serbia after their first leg and although Stuart Pearce's team have the edge, he and his players were disappointed not to have secured a healthier advantage.

England manager Stuart Pearce said he was expecting nothing less than a nip-and-tuck encounter after his side eked out a 1-0 win against Serbia in the first leg of the teams' UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off. The sides now travel to Krusevac for Tuesday's decider, and while England goalkeeper Jack Butland hopes the men ahead of him can continue to create chances, Serbia captain Slobodan Medojević expects a very different game in the return.

Stuart Pearce, England manager
It was a real tight affair, which you would expect. When we were drawn against each other I expected two tight matches. Nothing's changed to suggest it won't be that way. I'm pleased to have won and kept a clean sheet at home.

We created quite a few chances and should have been a touch more clinical in front of goal, but you take what you can and I think our team performance was pretty good and it's all to play for in Serbia.

We're disappointed we didn't take those opportunities, the players are disappointed. We have to make sure we create them on Tuesday and take them then. It's going to be a tight affair, we know that. We're in a play-off scenario now at U21 level and it's going to be pretty tough.

My job is to create a winning team that gets to finals if possible and on the back of that gives these players tournament experience, so when they move out of the age group go into the senior team nothing fazes them, whether it be a first international cap or whether a first tournament.

Jack Butland, England goalkeeper
We were very convincing. We could have had a few more goals. We should have made the trip to Serbia a lot, lot easier, but we got a clean sheet, which we needed to do. If they get an away goal we have to score at their place, so we're a goal up. They've not got an away goal, so we see it as a job well done.

If we don't concede over the two legs then we're through. We know we're very strong as a team defensively and also got great ability to attack as well, so know if we keep clean sheets we're going to score goals.

It would be more worrying if we didn't create any chances at all. On another day they go in. The keeper has pulled off a great save from Caulks' header. It could have been a lot more, but we've got the job done, we've got a clean sheet and we've got a goal to take to Serbia.

Slobodan Medojević, Serbia defender and captain
It was a very tough game from the first minute until the very end. We played a good match with a lot of tackling and a lot of fight and although we lost 1-0, we still have an active result and we have a game at home. I hope we will be better than today and that we will win.

We haven't lost any games before, today is our first loss, but you know England are a good team and our confidence is still high and we'll do our best to win at home and go through to the European Championships.

We had two or three really good chances but we missed [them] and in these games you must take your first chance. If you don't, it's much harder, so we need to do a little bit better on that. At home when we get our first chance it might be easier, but I must say England are a really good team and we will need to be at our best to win.

Branimir Aleksić, Serbia goalkeeper    
It was definitely a tough game, we hope it will be a more open match in the second leg in Krusevac. I have to say the atmosphere was fantastic here – the crowd were involved throughout the 90 minutes and we're looking forward to the rematch.

The header [Steven Caulker's late chance] was a difficult save to make and I hope it will prove to be crucial as we have a chance to level things up and go through. The Krusevac stadium will be filled with 11,000 spectators – it will be sold out. We expect the crowd to be the 12th man. We have to give our maximum and hope that it's enough to go through.

Last updated: 09/05/13 11.40CET

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