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Match Report: Euro Under-19 Qualifying - England 1-1 Montenegro

Tuesday 29th May 2012
England's under 19 team completed their second game of the four-team Elite Qualifying Round at Rochdale's Spotland Stadium with a 1-1 draw against Montenegro as they seek a place in the UEFA U19 Championships in Estonia later this summer.

The format for qualification sees England in a group containing Montenegro, Switzerland and Slovenia playing each other once in a round-robin which is all taking place in the North West of England this week. Only the winner of the group will reach the finals.

Having won their opening fixture 5-0 against Slovenia, England were looking for another win to put themselves in with a great chance of qualification. But they faced stern opposition in the form of the Montenegrans who also won their opening game 3-0 over Switzerland.

It was a good start by the Young Lions with Everton midfielder Ross Barkley running the show with a lovely range of passing. It was he who started the move for the first goal chance of the evening, as he spread the ball out to the right-hand side of the field to marauding full-back Todd Kane. Kane's cross was deflected towards goal and the Montenegro goalkeeper struggled back but managed to claim the ball only to be bundled along with the ball into the net by striker Benik Afobe. Despite large cheers from the England supporters, the goal was ruled out for the foul.

From that moment, Montenegro got more and more into the game. Their passing and movement was impressive and midway through the first half, they opened the scoring with a wonderful strike.

Liverpool full-back Jack Robinson tried to break clear down the left but the ball was intercepted by Marko Vukčević. The Montenegro captain stepped forward before unleashing an unstoppable left foot drive into the top corner of the net leaving England goalkeeper Sam Johnstone no chance.

England came back into the game slightly before the break. Captain George Thorne's corner from the left was nodded narrowly wide by Eric Dier, before Nathaniel Chalobah fired a low drive straight at the goalkeeper from 20 yards after another England corner had only been half-cleared.

It could easily have been 2-0 just before the interval when Hasan Pepic picked out a wonderful pass over the top of the England defence. Striker Luka Dordjevic decided to take a shot first time on the volley but he could only divert the ball over the crossbar.

The second half started with Montenegro dominating once more and trying to extend their lead. The England defence did well to keep them to shots from distance but with each one they appeared to be getting closer to finding the net, with Milos Kalezic the closest to finding the target with a rasping 25 yard drive which fizzed the wrong side of the post.

Tottenham's Harry Kane was brought into the fray with 25 minutes remaining and that turned the tide in England's favour as he looked to get on the ball whenever possible and he looked the one who was more likely to unlock the Montenegro defence.

Chances finally began to come for them and on 68 minutes Kane played in Will Keane whose effort across goal was well saved by the goalkeeper. Minutes later, good interplay by Kane and Keane saw the ball find Jack Dunn on the edge of the penalty area but his shot could only find the goalkeeper's hands.

The equaliser finally came on 85 minutes. Robinson launched a long throw-in from the right into the penalty area. Dier flicked the ball on and found Afobe who took a touch before poking the ball into the corner of the net.

It ended 1-1 meaning both teams are level on points at the top of Group 2. However, England have a two-goal advantage over their rivals. Victory in the final group game on Wednesday against Switzerland should see Noel Blake's youngsters through to the finals unless Montenegro win by three more goals when they taken on Slovenia on the same day.
Paul Harper

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