Young Lions held by old foes
England U21s seal top spot after 1-1 draw with Germany U21s
By James Dall. Last Updated: 23/06/09 10:43am
Rodwell: Star performer
England Under 21s wrapped up top spot in Group B as they came from a goal down to draw 1-1 with their German counterparts in Halmstad on Monday evening.
Having already booked their place in the semi-finals, England head coach Stuart Pearce made 10 changes to the side that defeated Spain 2-0 last week.
The gamble did not look like paying off when Germany Under 21s took the lead after just five minutes courtesy of careless defending and a tidy finish from Gonzalo Castro.
But the Young Lions rallied and struck back in the 29th minute as Jack Rodwell headed home from close range after Craig Gardner had delivered a tantalising corner.
England were very much in control for the remainder of the encounter but were unable to find the winner, with the stalemate enough to seal first position and also hand Germany their place in the last four.
The equation before kick-off was simple enough - England were in the next round and Germany needed a point to join them in the last four and knock Spain out.
Pearce may not have needed a result but he has an intense rivalry with Germany, stemming from penalty shoot-out defeats at Italy 90 and Euro 96.
Despite all the history, the bigger picture is Friday's semi-final and Pearce changed his entire team apart from Adam Johnson, with the likes of Theo Walcott and Micah Richards on the bench.
After dropping Walcott for the win over Spain, it was another surprising gamble from the Under 21 coach and it looked like the decision had backfired when Germany took the lead after four minutes.
Smoke from a flare lit by German fans had barely cleared the pitch when Jerome Boateng played Castro behind the England defence and the Bayer Leverkusen youngster slotted home between Scott Loach's legs.
It was a big blow for Pearce's squad players but they rolled their sleeves up and were the better team for the rest of the half.
Their first sight of goal came from a Gardner corner, which Rodwell headed over the crossbar.
Gardner, the skipper for the evening, also got a header on target from Andrew Driver's cross after Johnson's skill on the left had started a slick move.
There was more encouragement when Richard Stearman went marauding forward, battling through tackles and exchanging passes with Gardner before going over in the penalty area under Benedikt Howedes' challenge, but referee Peter Rasmussen waved play on.
England's pressure was rewarded just before the half-hour mark when Rodwell headed home.
Fraizer Campbell won a corner on the left and Gardner put it on Rodwell's head again, only this time he finished past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer after beating Andreas Beck to the ball.
Rodwell could have added another before the break when he went on an exciting run, dancing around Howedes - but his finish was too high.
Pearce did not need to change much at the break but brought on Joe Lewis for goalkeeper Loach, meaning every member of England's squad had played a part in the tournament.
Walcott then came on before the hour mark, replacing Campbell and getting a huge cheer when he was introduced in a central role.
Lewis did not have a lot to do but was watchful when Patrick Ebert had a shot deflected that would have crept under the crossbar, while Mesut Ozil flashed a drive wide.Stearman saw a close-range effort blocked but both sides appeared satisfied with a point each. However, there is now the prospect of facing Germany again - this time in the final.
|Germany U21||Team Statistics||England U21|
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|2||Shots on Target||3|
|5||Shots off Target||4|
European Under-21 Championship Group A
European Under-21 Championship Group B