England crush Belgium
Arsenal ace puts England on the verge of Euro 2013 qualification
Last Updated: March 1, 2012 8:25am
Henri Lansbury: Two from the young Gunner in 4-0 rout of Belgium leaves England one win short of Euro 2013 qualification
Henri Lansbury stole the show as England's U21s thumped Belgium 4-0 to put one foot in the Euro 2013 finals and stretch their lead at the top of Group 8 to seven points.
The West Ham midfielder, on loan from Arsenal, hit a wonder goal after just nine minutes and another after the break either side of one from Steven Caulker with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain completing the rout.
England Under-21s shrugged off the absence of manager Stuart Pearce to take another huge step towards qualification for Euro 2013 with a comfortable victory over Belgium in front of nearly 23,000 in Middlesbrough.
With Pearce taking charge of the seniors at Wembley, Brian Eastick guided the team to a victory that means Belgium can no longer catch them at the top of Group Eight, while Norway would need to win their remaining four games and have England drop points in their last two.
Henri Lansbury opened the scoring with a stunning cross-cum-shot from the wing, before Stephen Caulker headed in a second in the 35th minute.
When Lansbury added a third seven minutes into the second half, the three points were effectively wrapped up long before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's stoppage-time penalty.
England's plan was to use the pace of wingers Oxlade-Chamberlain and debutant Wilfried Zaha to get behind the Belgian defence and they set out full of running, with the wingers regularly switching sides to keep the visitors on their toes.
But it was Lansbury who really caught the eye, flashing a header wide from Martin Kelly's deep cross before opening the scoring in stunning fashion in the ninth minute.
There appeared little danger as he stood deep on the left wing but he fired the ball in and left goalkeeper Kaen Casteels rooted to the spot as it sailed into the far corner.
Martin Sordell was inches away from a Jordan Henderson cross moments later while Zaha saw a powerful left-footed effort turned away for a corner.
Belgium, who scored a last-minute winner in Mons when England dropped their only points of the qualifying campaign, were restricted to half-chances and failed to test Jack Butland as Thomas Meunier screwed a shot wide before Gianni Bruno blazed over.
It took a sliding tackle from Laurens De Bock to prevent Oxlade-Chamberlain breaking free, but from the resulting corner Caulker headed in after Craig Dawson nodded it back towards goal.
Ziguy Badibanga sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal but England quickly turned it into a chance of their own as they raced to the other end where Lansbury fired over.
There was a scare just before the break when Christian Benteke lost his man but headed wide from Badibanga's cross with the goal gaping.
England added a third seven minutes into the second half when the ball fell for Zaha on the right side of the penalty area and he drilled in a low ball for Lansbury to lash home.
Belgium had their best chance in response, with Badibanga's through ball finding the run of Bruno to get in behind the defence, but he slid his shot wide of the far post.
They had another chance after Kelly was dispossessed on the right, but Butland was out quickly to turn Nill De Pauw's effort wide.
Lansbury was denied the chance of a hat-trick as he was withdrawn 17 minutes from time in favour of Gary Gardner as England chose to shut up shop.
A vicious effort from Lamisha Musonda was blocked on the line and Butland than denied Jens Naessens when one-on-one in stoppage time as England protected their clean sheet before Oxlade-Chamberlain won a soft penalty which he drilled home himself with the last kick of the game.
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying
Wed 29th Feb - Group Eight
Azerbaijan U211 - 0Iceland U21
England U214 - 0Belgium U21
Wed 29th Feb - Group Three
Wales U214 - 0Andorra U21
Wed 29th Feb - Group One
Germany U211 - 0Greece U21
San Marino U211 - 2Cyprus U21
Wed 29th Feb - Group Ten
Scotland U210 - 0Holland U21
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group One
|6||San Marino U21||8||3|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Two
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Three
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Four
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Five
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Six
|3||Rep of Ireland U21||6||8|
|5||Faroe Islands U21||6||1|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Seven
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Eight
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Nine
|5||N Ireland U21||6||3|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Ten
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Eleven
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Twelve
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Thirteen
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Fourteen