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Italy U21s 1-0 England U21s

Macheda scores a penalty with two minutes to go against England

By Marc Vesty

Manchester United striker Federico Macheda scored a late penalty as England's injury-hit Under-21 side suffered a friendly defeat by Italy.

Italy started well, Gianvito Misuraca forcing Frank Fielding into a low save.

Josh McEachran's fine pass set up Scott Sinclair for England's best chance but he shot at the keeper when one-on-one.

With two minutes to go Ben Mee was sent off for tripping Niccolo Giannetti and Macheda, on loan at Sampdoria, coolly slotted his penalty into the corner.

The friendly in Empoli was an early opportunity for manager Stuart Pearce to cast his eye over players ahead of the Under-21 European Championships in Denmark this summer.

However, the former Manchester City manager's options were severely limited with nine withdrawals from his squad, including five injured defenders in Martin Kelly, Kieran Gibbs, Micah Richards, Chris Smalling and James Tomkins, while Kyle Walker was promoted to the senior squad.

Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson, Bolton Wanderers' on-loan striker Daniel Sturridge and Aston Villa midfielder Fabian Delph had also previously withdrawn from the group.

The missing players gave Chelsea midfielder Josh McEachran, who has played 14 times for the Stamford Bridge outfit this season, the opportunity to feature for the Under-21 side for the second time. And the 17-year-old impressed with a neat passing game which was at the heart of England's most promising moves.

Middleborough full-back Joe Bennett also came into the side for his Under-21 debut and he too showed quick feet and enthusiasm as England battled against a defensive and at times route one, Italian side.

With little between the two teams in the opening 10 minutes, Pearce's options were further reduced when Everton's Jack Rodwell limped off and was replaced by Chelsea's Jack Cork at centre-back.

The substitution almost led to the first goal for Italy when Vicenza striker Misuraca capitalized on confusion in the England backline and beat the offside trap before driving his effort low from the edge of the box, but a fine reflex save from Blackburn keeper Fielding kept the score level.

England, who were runners-up to Germany in Euro 2009, currently lead the European rankings and had hoped to put in a more convincing performance against a side who have not qualified for this summer's European Championships.

Pearce sent on a trio of debutants in the second half in an attempt to liven up the game with Southampton's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who is considered one of the hottest prospects in English football and has been linked with Arsenal and Manchester United, coming into the fray, along with Burnley's Jay Rodriguez and Leeds midfielder Jonathan Howson.

The changes had the desired effect with Oxlade-Chamberlain showing a great turn of pace to create one of England's better chances as he breezed past his full-back and hit the byline, but no England player could tap in the cross from six yards.

A delightful diagonal ball from McEachran teed up Oxlade-Chamberlain on the edge of the box as England looked to hit Italy on the counter attack but the 17-year-old side-footed a tame effort straight into the arms of Carlo Pinsoglio.

England continued to dominate possession and with eight minutes to go finally made the Italian goalkeeper work.

A wonderful 40-yard pass by McEachran split the Italy centre-backs and put substitute Sinclair through one-on-one with Carlo Pinsoglio but the Swansea winger fired his effort straight at the goalkeeper.

Sinclair almost made amends seconds later but his powerful effort from 18-yards was tipped around the post by Pinsoglio.

Despite their dominance, England were hit by a sucker punch two minutes from time when Mee tripped Juventus striker Giannetti and Macheda nonchalantly slipped his penalty into the corner, handing Pearce only his sixth defeat in 44 matches in charge of the Under-21 side.

England manager Stuart Pearce:

"Given the amount of players we had pull away from the situation, and injured, I was a little bit disappointed.

"But once the game got started, and certainly at the end of the game, I was pleased with the contribution of quite a number of them.

"I have learned a lot from this game. We've got some good talent here and this is another part of the player pool that we have got that is fighting for a place at the under-21 tournament in the summer.

"The more options and problems I have, the better it is for me and England."

Italy U21: Pinsoglio, Santon (Biraghi 66), Crescenzi, Romizi, Camporese, Caldirola, D'Alessandro (Saponara 45), Soriano (Rizzo 61), Macheda (Mori 90), Fabbrini (Donati 46), Misuraca (Giannetti 61).
Subs Not Used: Perin, El Shaarawi.
Goals: Macheda 88 pen.

England U21: Fielding, Naughton, Bennett, Rodwell (Cork 12), Mee, Muamba, Albrighton (Sinclair 73), Lansbury (Oxlade-Chamberlain 60), McEachran (Trippier 83), Vaughan (Rodriguez 60), Delfouneso (Howson 60).
Subs Not Used: Loach, Steele.
Sent Off: Mee (88).

Attendance: 3,700

Referee: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Valencia).

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see also
Pearce questions player workload
08 Feb 11 |  Football
England U21s draft in McEachran
07 Feb 11 |  Football
England squad hit by withdrawals
06 Feb 11 |  Football

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