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BBC's David Oates
"Carragher's challenge was clumsy in the extreme"
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Friday, 26 May, 2000, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
England U21s take a knock
Italy celebrates
Unique celebrations for Pirlo's penalty
Italy U21 2-0 England U21

England's dreams of European Under-21 Championship glory took a severe jolt after they lost only their third game in four years to a well-organised Italian team.

A vastly under-strength squad dominated the opening 20 minutes, with Frank Lampard forcing AC Milan's goalkeeper Christian Abbiati into a stunning fingertip save in the fifth minute.

The Italians took a 24th-minute lead when Francesco Coco whipped in a cross for Gianni Comandini to head firmly past the despairing hands of Nicky Weaver.

Smart turn

England should have been level before the break but Abbiati proved the difference, smartly turning aside low drives from Lee Hendrie and Francis Jeffers.

With the last kick of the opening 45 minutes came the knock-out punch as centre-back Jamie Carragher's high challenge on former Inter striker Ventola inside the box was punished with a penalty.

Andrea Pirlo doubled the lead with a confident strike from the spot.

England had much of the possession for the remainder of the game, but Italy held firm and should have increased their lead with a number of chances.

Slovakia beat Turkey 2-1 in the other group game, which sets up a vital clash with the Turks on Monday, one England must win if they are to avoid finishing bottom of the group and an early return home.

Reflective mood

England coach Howard Wilkinson was in reflective mood after the game.

We made a couple of errors and paid very dearly for them

Howard Wilkinson
"We made a couple of errors and paid very dearly for them, having had alot more of the game.

"We've got to learn at this level you cannot switch off for a second.

"We'll be kicking ourselves - we've got to go on and try to win the next two games and see what that brings."

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See also:

12 May 00 | Football
Lampard set to miss Euro 2000
21 Mar 00 | Football
Experience selected amongst youth
23 Feb 00 | Football
End-to-end Hendrie fires winner
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