Pearce's boys sent home early after late goals shatter England

England Under-21 1 Czech Republic Under-21 2

Stuart Pearce's England's squad will stage an early retreat from their hotel this morning, eliminated from the European Under-21 Championship after conceding twice in the last few minutes of a game they had to win.

Daniel Welbeck's headed goal a quarter of an hour from the end last night seemed to have brought the victory they required to eliminate the Czech Republic, who until that point had looked comfortable. But in the last three minutes a previously solid defence was prised apart twice to send the Czechs through to a semi-final against Switzerland.

There was irony in that, since centre-halves Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, and the goalkeeper Frankie Fielding have all enhanced their reputations. As one goal in three games illustrated, however, too much reliance had been put on that rearguard because of a chronic lack of creativity in the unfortunate absence of Arsenal's Jack Wilshere. While the lucky 1-1 draw against Spain in the opening game was an unexpected bonus, England suffered from a conservative approach against Ukraine and from not scoring enough goals overall: two in three matches, both by Welbeck.

As is often the case at tournaments, other individuals did not live up to their reputation - most notably Jordan Henderson, who was hauled off after barely an hour last night, and the captain Michael Mancienne, who was dropped. Jones, the youngest player but one in the squad at 19, was given the armband, which emphasised the paucity of natural leaders. As usual with England at all levels, there were notable absentees too, including Wilshere, Andy Carroll, Lee Cattermole and Micah Richards. So those who were here will have to be satisfied with brief tournament experience rather than a rare English winning experience.

Pearce was correct that England found themselves in by far the stronger of the two groups, but that made it all the more imperative to defeat Ukraine, the weakest opponents. A conservative approach in that game brought no more than a draw and left the young squad vulnerable to the sort of twist of fate that occurred right at the finish.

The Czechs were not content to play for a draw initially, although it soon became clear with Spain winning that one point was all they would require. There was some more constructive building from the back by England, with Fielding encouraged at last to throw the ball out, but as in previous games Henderson struggled to find the right pass. The Czech's passing was much sharper and led to the best moment of the first half, when Bundesliga player Jan Moravek, billed as the new Tomas Rosicky, was set up for a volley that Fielding did well to turn for a corner. The goalkeeper's opposite number, Tomas Vaclik, matched that well when Scott Sinclair used his pace to cut inside and shoot from 20 yards. England's best chance otherwise stemmed from an incisive pass by Jones to Ryan Bertrand, whose cross was volleyed into the side-netting by Tom Cleverley.

The crowd of just over 5,000 were seeing what they must have expected and the second half followed an equally predictable pattern. England pushed forward with increasing desperation and the Czechs became content to absorb what pressure there was and then counter-attack.

Sturridge swapped places with Cleverley for the second half, moving wide, and crossed for Welbeck to head his second crucial goal of the tournament. But from the 88th minute onwards England fell apart. As they failed to clear a routine cross, Marcel Gecov centered for an equaliser from Jan Chramosta, who then fed the former Southampton striker Tomas Pekhart to score with the last kick of the game; and, for England, of the tournament.

England (4-2-3-1): Fielding (Derby): Walker (Tottenham), Smalling (Manchester United), Jones (Blackburn), Bertrand (Chelsea): Henderson (Liverpool), Muamba (Bolton): Cleverley (Manchester United), Sturridge (Chelsea), Sinclair (Swansea): Welbeck (Manchester United).

Replacements: Lansbury (Arsenal for Henserson 63); Albrighton (Aston Villa for Cleverley 75); Roseose (Tottenham for Sinclair 87)

Czech Republic (4-1-4-1): Vaclik: Celustka, Suchy, Mazuch, Lecjaks: Gecov: Dockal, Marecek, Moravek (Chramosta, 83), Kovarik (Cerny, 67); Kozak (Pekhart, 83).

Referee : P Tagliavento (Italy)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future