U-21 Euro 2013 Matchdays 1&2 Wrap: Netherlands, Spain, Italy Shine
By Alex Fairchild
With the opening round of matches in the books, the 2013 U-21 European Championships have got off to a thrilling start. After two days of play, England, Germany, and Russia all stare down the barrel heading into their second games at the weekend.
Israel 2-2 Norway: The hosts got off to a shocking start against a Norway side that dominated the match's opening. Against the run of play, the Israelis scored on 16 minutes. It was a failed clearance by the Norwegians that led to Omar Elabdellaoui's take down of Omri Ben Harush in the area. Elabdellaoui's error ended with a finish from the spot by Nir Biton.
However, Norway struck back a mere 8 minutes later. The visitors brought the ball forward on the counter before loosing it in the corner. Another poor clearance proved costly as the ball found its way via one pass to Stefan Johansen who swung a diagonal ball into the feet of Marcus Pedersen. The youngster took the ball down well and struggled for possession with his opponent before creating a meter of space and swinging his hips around to beat the keeper on his right side from just inside 18 yards.
With 43 minutes gone, the game was flipped on its head. As the Israelis made a charge forward, defender Vegar Hedenstad failed to track the attacking surge from Mohammad Kalibat. The left-sided player came across the Israel No. 9 from his rear. Hedenstad brought down Kalibat by snagging onto his jersey and clipping the runner's heels. As the last defender, the official had no choice but to send the Norwegian off.
In a 4-3-1, Norway looked to edge ahead, but Israel took the lead through its one man advantage with under 20 minutes remaining. Just a moment after too many red shirts were caught forward and the hosts' Eyaal Golasa missed a chance just yards from goal, they scored through a cracking volley from Alon Turgeman. The substitutes' chance came after a gorgeous turn from Ofir Krieff, who sent a bullet of a ball into a posted-up Munas Dabbur. It was the outside of Dabbur's foot that popped the ball up to Turgeman who made no mistake.
But the away team, playing catch up once more, succeeded at the death. A ball looped to the top of the area was chested wonderfully to Havard Nielsen who struck a brilliant half-volley by Boris Kleyman, which saw the away team earn a share of the points on an ingenious injury time equalizer.
Italy 1-0 England: England’s ship took a massive blow to the bow on Matchday 1 after defeat to the hands of Italy.
The 2010 winners of the U-17 contest scored on 48 minutes, but the goal was called back due to a foul by Steven Caulker. Craig Dawson headed it home, though the ref saw otherwise. It all came as a result of a delicious free kick from Liverpool’s Jonjo Shelvey. However, the English were bereft of attacking creativity. The likes of Jordan Henderson, Shelvey, and Nathan Redmond struggled to unzip a tidy Italian defense.
Lorenzo Insigne broke the ice 11 minutes from time. After a near penalty was conceded by the Three Lions, the Napoli man curled his strike by Jack Butland at the England keeper’s near post. The wall stood flat, just as England were throughout the match.
Spain 1-0 Russia: It was dominating performance by the Spanish, who put the Russians in a stranglehold in Jerusalem.
The scoreline was far more generous than the tally of shots, which La Roja led 17-1. Spain's David de Gea did not have to make a stop all night as the team in white did not do enough to win a single corner. Despite their multiple forays, the holders left it late. After 82 minutes, the winner came from a free kick from Barcelona's Thiago Alcantara. The ball was whipped into the box and found the head of on-running super-sub Alvaro Morata.
Russian goalkeeper Nikolai Zabolotni had no chance as the 63rd minute replacement for Iker Munian found the back of the net. Russia were missing the influence of senior players Alan Dzagoev and Aleksandr Kokorin. Both footballers are in Lisbon playing for the nation's first team, who have an important World Cup Qualifying match against Portugal on Friday.
Netherlands 3-2 Germany: In the hotly contested European 'border war' the Oranje met their neighbors in a brilliant battle in Petah Tikva.
The opener was a result of breathtaking play from Ola John and Adam Maher. John's short-corner to Maher was returned to the taker who then cruised by a defender, before finding his teammate once again. Maher then cut inside before unleashing his shot by Germany's Bernd Leno.
The lead was furthered 14 minutes later when Georginio Wijnaldum, one of our players to watch at the tournament, embarrassed the German defense with 38 minutes off the clock. After turning his marker, the PSV man breezed by two more white shirts and finished his solo effort with a blast towards Leno. The keeper got a hand to the shot, but his deflection was not enough to knock the ball away from goal, as it bounced into the net. A last ditch effort to clear the line was seen by the goal-line official as insufficient leaving the Germans in need of a massive comeback.
And comeback they did. Just moments after half time, the Dutch made a massive fumble. A grave mistake from Stefan de Vrij allowed Kevin Volland behind the Dutch rearguard. Volland found Lewis Holtby just yards from goal, but the Tottenham man was brought down by goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet. The official pointed to the spot and Sebastian Rudy zeroed in on the culprit from 12 yards, wrong-siding Zoet with a lovely finish to the goal's right side.
Holtby was ever-relevant in the match and leveled his country on 81 minutes. De Vrij was the victim of a better German once again, as Holtby came in from the right in much the same manner Maher did earlier, though the Spurs star's individual effort came from a more central area and was further out than Maher's finish. Nevertheless, Holtby's sizzler steamed its way into the right hand-corner.
But Holtby's work would not be good enough on the night. As the restart occurred Leroy Fer, the Dutch side's most-capped member, entered the fold replacing the scorer of the evening's opener. Fer made up for lost time and got the Dutch a superb winner as the clock struck 90. Tony Jantschke's last-ditch sliding tackle put the ball out for a corner that was taken by Marco van Ginkel. The corner bulleted off the head of the Dutchman, Fer, who toppled over his opponent to beat Leno.
Italy sit atop Group A, while Israel and Norway are sandwiched in between the leaders and bottom-dwellers England. In Group B, the Spanish and Dutch lead the two sides they defeated, who are level in the division's basement. Play resumes on Saturday when England and Norway kick-off from 12 pm EST.