Dawson earns England slim Serbia advantage

England 1-0 Serbia
Stuart Pearce's side created plenty of chances but could only take one as Craig Dawson's second-half penalty gave them a narrow first-leg lead.

Dawson earns England slim Serbia advantage
Dawson earns England slim Serbia advantage ©UEFA.com

Craig Dawson's penalty earned England victory against Serbia, but it is the narrowest of leads Stuart Pearce's side will defend in their UEFA European Under-21 Championship play-off second leg.

England may come to regret a succession of missed opportunities in Norwich, with Dawson's 65th-minute spot kick all that separated the teams. Serbia were dogged, but could not maintain any consistent pressure on the hosts' defence. It could be a different story in Krusevac on Tuesday, though.

On a clear, crisp night at Carrow Road, England took the early initative, but could not apply the finishing touch to their approach play. Tom Ince twice found himself with a clear sight of goal, glancing Danny Rose's 13th-minute cross wide before a heavy touch let him down when one-on-one with goalkeeper Branimir Aleksić.

Serbia were not playing like a side who came through their qualifying group undefeated, but despite not seeing much possession, they gave warning of their threat in the 26th minute. FK Crvena zvezda midfielder Darko Lazović hooked in a cross that a back-peddling Luka Milunović headed over. It served as a warning to which England responded in kind, Ince, and the influential Jordan Henderson, both both going close before the break.

A great run by debutant Raheem Sterling after the resumption brought the crowd alive and, after Wilfried Zaha fired at Aleksić, England's probing eventually paid off. Right-back Adam Smith nipped ahead of Milunović to a loose ball in the box and the striker brought him down. Dawson did the rest from the spot.

Zaha and substitute Andros Townsend continued to attack, but it was Milunović who next went close as he blazed over when in on goal. It was a fantastic chance and Serbia were almost to rue it two minutes later when Aleksić did well to claw away Steven Caulker's header. It will be just the one goal, though, that Serbia will need to overturn.