Euro Under-19s Day Two: Spain beaten as Serbia lay down a marker

25 07 2009

ljajicDay two of the 2009 European Under-19 Championships saw tournament favourites Spain beaten by a talented Serbian team, whilst England were held by hosts Ukraine for their second draw apiece. France rescued a stoppage-time equaliser against Turkey, and Switzerland came from behind to beat Slovenia.

France and Turkey opened proceedings, but were both timid in their approach, knowing that after failing to win on day one meant a defeat this time would all but end qualification hopes. Les Bleus’ Tripy Makonda was causing some problems with his lively wing play, but there was to be no first half breakthrough. Turkey’s resolute defence allowed their team to stay in the game, and they took the lead midway through the second half. Umut Sozen delivered a corner which found Bursaspor striker Sercan Yildirim, and the most prolific scorer in the squad just about scored despite some desperate attempts to clear on the line.

It meant France absolutely had to score in order to keep up Semi Final hopes, and they did get there, in dramatic last-gasp circumstances. Maxime Partouche and Joshua Guilavogui both had good chances before Ryad Boudebouz had an injury-time pot-shot in desperation. It crashed off the crossbar, and fortunately for France landed for Alfred N’Diaye, and he snared the chance with glee, leaving them with a chance of the knockout phases.

Slovenia and Switzerland were second up, both having earned a first game point. After their late show against England it was to be another comeback from the Swiss, taking all three points in the closing stages, and it was Slovenia’s continued ill discipline which ultimately cost them. The first half was almost all Switzerland, with Orhan Mustafi causing relentless problems for the Slovenian defence. In return, they were being limited to long-range efforts, but Leon Crncic did have a chance on half time, which he mis-kicked to safety.

They came into the game more in the second half, and after Dejan Zadniker hit the woodwork with a crashing long-range effort, they took the lead. An attempted 66th minute cross from Matic Fink fooled everybody and dropped over the head of goalkeeper Oliver Klaus. It stunned the dominant Swiss, and Zadnikar almost took full advantage, but for the second time he saw a shot come back off the frame of the goal. They were to shoot themselves in the foot though, when with fifteen minutes left Dejan Lazarevic picked up his second yellow card and Slovenia’s second red card of the tournament, and hand the game to the Swiss.

Within three minutes Alexander Pasche had them level, firing low past Radan. With the tide firmly turned, Sebastian Wutrich – scorer of the dramatic stoppage-time free kick against England on Tuesday – rolled the ball into the path of Mustafi for an easy tap-in and a probably deserved winner.

The marquee game of the day came up third, as Serbia proved their title credentials by beating perennial youth favourites Spain. It started well for the latter, who grabbed a sixth-minute lead when Joselu San Martin scored his second goal in as many games. The number nine turned in a rebound after Oriol’s attempt was saved, after good work from Iago Falqué and Pulido. In response, Nemanja Milic tested David De Gea, but the Atlético goalkeeper was even to whatever was thrown at him.

That was, at least, until the 36th minute. Adem Ljajic’s free kick was unusually spilled by De Gea, and it was duly gobbled up by Milan Milanovic for the equaliser. It caught the attention and the confidence of the Serbs, and through the swashbuckling Ljajic they started to look dangerous. A rasping drive at the start of the second half signalled the intent, although Spain still fired warning shots through Merida. Five minutes into the restart, Milanovic scored his second. Ljajic delivered a wonderful ball and the defender rose to flick in his second of the game. Despite having the better of the ball for the remainder of the game, Spain were unable to level, and relinquished pole position in the standings to their victorious opponents.

The hosts were up last against fancied England, and were impressive in holding their opponents to an entertaining 2-2 draw. It took less than three minutes for the first goal to arrive, as captain Kyrylo Petrov finished a lovely team move by passing a shot past Jason Steele. The England stopper was more reliable than his nervous back line as he kept the Three Lions in it shortly after, turning away a Korkishko effort.

Halfway through the first half, England were level. Goalkeeper Igor Levchenko struggled to deal with a backpass, which was seized upon by Daniel Welbeck. Levchenko felled the Man Utd forward, and from the resulting penalty, Henri Lansbury converted. The confidence imbibed in the English was tangible, and their dominance turned into an early second-half lead. Daniel Drinkwater’s free-kick took a heavy deflection and with many Ukrainians thrown out of position, Everton’s Dan Gosling turned the ball home.

It was to end well for the hosts though, and captain Petrov. Ten minutes later Butko’s inswinging cross was met by a powerful header for his second, and the last goal of proceedings. The loud home crowd willed their team on to win, but despite good efforts from Garmash, Rybalka and Petrov, Steele was not to be beaten and both teams settled for their second successive draws.

Tuesday sees round three of group games, where all four qualification spots remain up for grabs.

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