Italy beat England but Sweden deny them semi spot
Wednesday, 24 June 2015
England 1-3 Italy
The Azzurrini eased to a commanding win but triumph turned to despair as Sweden's late equaliser against Portugal knocked them out.
Article top media content
• Italy earn first win of U21 EURO but their effort is ultimately in vain
• Sweden's 89th-minute equaliser against Portugal snatches semi spot from Italy
• England finish bottom of Group B after second defeat
• Luigi Di Biagio's men seize control with two goals in three first-half minutes
• England left to rue Danny Ings' early chance on night of missed opportunities
It was a night of disappointment for Italy and England in Olomouc, although Luigi Di Biagio's team were the ones warranting the sympathy.
They did all they could do by taking three points against England and with two minutes to go looked to have snatched second place in Group B from Sweden. Instead a late Simon Tibbling goal meant the 2013 finalists missed out on the head-to-head rule and join England in an early exit.
For England it was a third successive group stage elimination and they were left to rue a clear opportunity spurned by Ings after 13 minutes. Harry Kane's brilliant pass sent Ings racing clear but the Liverpool striker, on his first start in the Czech Republic, drilled into the side-netting. In a high-stakes game it was a big moment.
Kane, the provider then, was a central – if ultimately frustrated – figure. He created something out of nothing for himself – plucking a high ball out of the air and cutting in to draw a flying save from Francesco Bardi – but moments later Italy seized control. Receiving a short free-kick 40 metres from goal, Domenico Berardi lifted a terrific ball over the line of English defenders to where Belotti pounced with a fine volleyed strike at full stretch.
Two minutes later, with England yet to recover, the Azzurrini had their second goal. Lorenzo Cristig was left free to run to the edge of England's box and when John Stones did step in, Cristig slid the ball to Benassi who shot in via a slight deflection off Ben Gibson.
Nathan Redmond and Kane both drew saves from Bardi as England sought to respond and another chance came and went moments after the restart when Jesse Lingard jinked past his marker but, with a sight of goal, swerved his shot past the post.
England had more chances – Ings and Lingard fired shots wide again – and they ended the night with 20 goal attempts but only four on target and one in the net, with Nathan Redmond's strike from distance in added time. By then Italy had a third goal after the unchallenged Marcello Trotta met Davide Zappacosta's long throw into the box with an overhead flick into the danger area where Benassi arrived to head in.
One of the many St George flags behind the goal England attacked in the second half bore the message 'They fly so high'. Instead they will be flying home – and Italy too. "Italia, Italia" was the cry from the small band of Italy fans in the Ander Stadium as news filtered through of Portugal's late goal but there was a sting in the tail to follow.