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England claim Greek scalp in vain

England 3-0 Greece
England finally found their scoring touch but still exited the finals as Italy beat the Czech Republic to progress.

A dejected Joe Mattock cannot believe England are out
A dejected Joe Mattock cannot believe England are out ©Sportsfile

England finally found their scoring touch to defeat Greece 3-0 but still exited the UEFA European Under-19 Championship as Italy beat the Czech Republic in the other Group B game to top the group.

World Cup consolation
The floodgates opened belatedly for England who won with second-half goals from Ben Mee, a Freddie Sears penalty and Daniel Sturridge. However, their reward was not the semi-final place which also depended on a Czech victory or draw, but third position in the pool and a ticket to the 2009 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Flying start
With progress at stake, the match in Liberec began brightly. Sturridge escaped Greece's defence to latch on to Danny Rose's ball and see his shot saved by goalkeeper Nikos Babaniotis. The excitement continued at the other end as Apostolos Giannou fired against goalkeeper David Button after Nikolaos Boutzikos and Lefteris Matsoukas had undone the England back line. Sears nearly connected with a Rose through pass. Then Sturridge let fly from 20 metres, forcing Babaniotis into a stop – Sears having profited from hesitancy between Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Vassilis Lampropoulos to create the opening.

Chances aplenty
Despite Ioannis Papadopoulos finding his range from distance, and namesake Kyriakos heading wide, England looked the more constructive team as half-time approached. There were chances from the edge of the Greece area for Kieran Gibbs. Against that, the failure of Brian Eastick's side to clear their lines after a corner resulted in Ioannis Papadopoulos drifting an effort centimetres wide. But the flow was largely towards Greek territory, as witnessed by Babaniotis's brilliant block from Sears, followed by Kyriakos Papadopoulos getting his body in the way of Gibbs's blast.

Deadlock broken
The breakthrough came after 48 minutes when defender Mee rose unchallenged to power in a right-wing corner from Victor Moses. One almost became two as Rose's shot was kicked clear by Vangelis Galanis, before the winger's follow-up was kept out by Babaniotis, who also saved a strike from Gibbs. Realising the severity of the situation, Alexis Alexiou's Greece came out of their shells. Ioannis Papadopoulos warmed the hands of Button, then a break led by Savas Gentzoglou ended with Matsoukas shooting into the side-netting. Joe Mattock also made a vital tackle to prevent Giannou racing through.

All over
The hopes of a Greece side missing Sotiris Ninis through suspension could have been extinguished when Sears released Sturridge whose chip sailed over. Sturridge did, nonetheless, win a 68th-minute penalty, going down under the challenge of Lampropoulos. Sears did the rest with a cool conversion. Greece roused themselves sufficiently for Michail Pavlis to head centimetres wide, then Button tipped over a Ioannis Papadopoulos free-kick. It was all to no avail, however, as Sturridge's neat finish completed the English victory.