England U-21 0 – 1 Italy U-21
England’s Under-21s began their European Championship campaign with a disappointing 1 – 0 defeat against Italy in Tel Aviv.
Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne struck a 20-yard free-kick past keeper Jack Butland just 11 minutes from time.
England had the ball in the net in the 48th minute, but Craig Dawson’s goal was disallowed following a push by Steven Caulker in the build up. Jordan Henderson had a free-kick well saved in stoppage time as England looked for a late equaliser.
Insigne almost gave the Italians an early lead when he drilled a low shot the wrong side of Butland’s post.
England had won their last nine games without conceding a goal but rarely looked like extending their record as they were pinned back for much of the game.
They struggled to contain dangerman Insigne, whose late goal was the first conceded by Stuart Pearce’s side in 899 minutes, stretching back to November 2011.
The Italians dominated much of the game, and had several, decent penalty shouts throughout. Referee Antony Gautier waved away the Italians appeals when Jack Robinson appeared to catch midfielder Alessandro Florenzi midway through the first half.
There was also some confusion around the winning goal. It seemed as if the official had pointed to the spot when Nathaniel Clyne caught Italy substitute Manolo Gabbiandini, only for the foul to be given outside the area.
England can take solace that Italy are regarded as their strongest opponents in the group and will hope to have key players back to face Norway and hosts Israel, who drew their opening game 2-2 earlier on Wednesday evening.
Pearce was without Wilfried Zaha and Henri Lansbury, who were both suffering from niggling injuries, while Thomas Ince and Danny Rose were serving controversial suspensions following incidents after last October’s win in Serbia.
Nathan Redmond of Birmingham made his under-21 debut and proved to be the England’s liveliest attacker in a disappointing display.
Stuart Pearce was critcal of his side after the match, labelling the performance as ‘awful’. Pearce added, “We didn’t play well tonight. It was there for everyone to see, the better side won if I’m being honest.”
England take on Norway in their second group match on Saturday evening.
01 Butland; 02 Clyne, 04 Caulker, 06 Dawson, 09 Robinson; 08 Henderson, 10 Lowe, 18 Shelvey (McEachran – 75′), 19 Redmond; 21 Sordell (Chalobah – 65′), 22 Wickham (Delfouneso – 82′)
01 Bardi; 02 Donati, 03 Biraghi, 06 Caldirola, 13 Bianchetti; 04 Verratti, 07 Florenzi, 08 Marrone (Rossi – 86′), 09 Immobile (Gabbiadini – 60′); 10 Insigne, 20 Borini (Destro – 78′)
Man of the Match: Lorenzo Insigne