Pearce's side see off Norway but sterner challenges lie ahead
England Under-21 2 Norway Under-21 0
Monday 06 June 2011
Stuart Pearce enjoyed a considerably more comfortable afternoon than the previous one at Wembley as his England Under-21 side won their final friendly in Southampton before departing for Denmark and the European Championship finals, in which their opening game is against Spain on Sunday.
Making five changes at half-time, when already leading 2-0, discouraged any complacency and the team did not look significantly weaker, suggesting that even without Jack Wilshere, Andy Carroll and Micah Richards there is depth in a squad with a core of Premier League players as well as half a dozen who have been on loan at Championship clubs. "I don't think we played as well as we can, but the last game before a tournament is always on players' minds," Pearce said. "We're better when the chips are down, and we've got to hit the ground running next week."
Norway, who have not qualified, proved usefully pliable opposition. Their captain, Celtic's centre-half Thomas Rogne, found Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge a handful, and in midfield Manchester City's Abdisalam Ibrahim made no impression against Jack Rodwell. The Scandinavians threatened only twice and were denied by Frankie Fielding, whose first-half save from Mads Stokkelien was exceptional.
After nine minutes, Sunderland's Jordan Henderson played a diagonal pass to Chelsea's Ryan Bertrand, who timed his run perfectly to meet it and cross, giving Sturridge a tap-in. The second goal was not dissimilar, with Chris Smalling hitting the pass to Danny Rose, who cut inside two defenders before striking a right-footed shot into the top corner.
The crowd of almost 18,000 then waved them on their way to Denmark, where they will find Spain, Ukraine and the Czech Republic more demanding opposition than yesterday's.
England (4-3-3): Fielding (Derby); Mancienne (Hamburg), Smalling (Manchester United), Jones (Blackburn), Bertrand (Chelsea); Henderson (Sunderland), Muamba (Bolton), Rodwell (Everton); Sturridge (Chelsea), Welbeck (Manchester United), Rose (Tottenham). Substitutes: Cleverley (Manchester United) for Welbeck, 46; Gibbs (Arsenal) for Bertrand, 46; Cork (Chelsea) for Muamba, 46; Albrighton (Aston Villa) for Rose, 46; Lansbury (Arsenal) for Henderson, 46; Delfounesco (Aston Villa) for Sturridge, 65; Tomkins (West Ham) for Jones, 83.
Norway (4-5-1): Ostbro; Hedenstad, Rogne, Strandberg, Wangberg; Johansen (Ringstad, 70), Berisha ( Tveter, 72), Singh, Ibrahim, Kastrati (Bakenga, 86); Stokkelien.
Referee C Turpin (France).
England in Denmark:
Who they play:
Sunday 12 June England v Spain in Herning
Wednesday 15 June England v Ukraine in Herning
Sunday 19 June England v Czech Republic in Viborg
(all kick off at 7.45pm)
Four to watch
Chris Smalling (Manchester United) Highly regarded by Sir Alex Ferguson, he will be a key man in the centre of defence, where he turned in some increasingly assured performances for United this season.
Phil Jones (Blackburn) Likely to be Smalling's partner, the more physical of the two, though he likes to bring the ball out of defence. Useful at set pieces and can also play in midfield.
Jack Rodwell (Everton) Impressive as one of the younger players at the finals two years ago, he should be fresher than most after missing three months of the season before returning.
Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea) Began to justify confidence in his own ability with a series of fine performances and eight goals on loan to Bolton in the second half of the season.
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