Barkley sends England to semis
Friday, May 21, 2010
Greece 0-1 England
A thumping first-half header from Ross Barkley proved the difference as England strode into the last four with a game to spare.
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England are assured of a UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-final berth after a 1-0 defeat of Greece, whose hopes of reaching the last four are over.
It is two wins out of two for England in Group B and successive defeats for Leonidas Vokolos's team, who were undone by one clinical move, Everton colleagues Luke Garbutt and Ross Barkley combining to devastating effect five minutes before half-time. Vokolos's task was made all the trickier by two enforced first-half substitutions, including goalkeeper Stefanos Kapino, and they now have only pride to play for against the Czech Republic on Monday.
England were positively fluent in beating the Czechs on Tuesday, but, for half an hour at least, both they and Greece were disparate propositions in the final third. John Peacock's side linked up effectively only on one occasion, Connor Wickham bustling his way onto Joshua McEachran's pass before unleashing a shot which was turned behind.
Possession was at a premium for Greece throughout and they scarcely helped themselves with a series of fruitless efforts from range. England had been little more protective of the ball but, five minutes before the interval, they clicked. Left-back Garbutt advanced far enough to deliver a wicked cross that Barkley met with a bullet header.
Benik Afobe and Greece's Fotios Kaimakamoudis, however, were less clinical either side of half-time when faced with aerial chances of their own. Greece looked toothless going forward and did not find their shooting boots until 18 minutes of the second half had elapsed, Georgios Katidis driving narrowly wide after good work by Kaimakamoudis.
Control, poise and an eye for goal had all been in short supply for large parts of the game, but all three were on display with 15 minutes left when Wickham took the ball down with his chest, looked up and drilled within a whisker of the post from the edge of the penalty area. His lack of accuracy mattered not, though, for Barkley's strike proved decisive. A point against Turkey on Monday would ensure England first place in the section.