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England U21 3-3 Sweden U21 (aet)

England win 5-4 on penalties

By Phil Dawkes

England players run to celebrate after the decisive penalty

England Under-21s set up a European Championship final against Germany with a 5-4 penalty shoot-out win over Sweden despite losing a 3-0 half-time lead.

Martin Cranie's strike, a Nedum Onuoha shot and a Mattias Bjarsmyr own goal put England in control at the break.

A revitalised Sweden forced extra-time after Ola Toivonen's free-kick and two Marcus Berg goals levelled the score.

Frazier Campbell saw red, but England held on to set up a final with Germany, who beat Italy 1-0 in their semi-final.

England had fallen at the semi-final stage of this 31-year-old tournament five times, including a 13-12 penalty defeat to the Netherlands two years ago.

But they were able to put that long-running hoodoo to bed after Guillermo Molin's miss from the penalty spot sealed their win.

The home side had secured their own passage to the last four only 72 hours earlier, courtesy of a bruising 3-1 victory over Serbia and England caught the hosts napping after just a minute.

James Milner delivered an outswinging corner which fell at the feet of full-back Cranie on the edge of the box and his effort beat Swedish keeper Johan Dahlin and a covering defender to find the net.

Once the game settled, England emerged as the dominant force in it, working hard to retain possession and then looking to utilise the pace of their forward line on the break.

The only sour note of the first 45 minutes was the booking of Gabriel Agbonlahor for using an arm when challenging aerially with Bjarsmyr, ruling him out of the final.

Bjarsmyr was forced to leave the field for treatment and England took almost immediate advantage of their numerical superiority, again from a corner.

Milner delivered and inattentive Swedish defending allowed Onuoha to control the ball, and strike a swivelled shot into the corner of the net.

606: DEBATE
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If Bjarsmyr's absence was to blame for the second goal, England's third owed entirely to his presence as, in attempting to clear, his swinging left foot diverted an Onuoha header from Lee Cattermole's right-wing cross into his own net.

Cattermole almost made it four on the stroke of half-time but his fierce strike from a neat Agbonlahor lay-off flew just over.

Theo Walcott's pace created a number of openings for himself throughout the second half, but each time his shooting let him down.

England paid the price for such profligacy as Sweden - galvanised by substitutes Labinot Harbuzi, Robin Soder and Molins - gradually chipped away at the deficit.

With 20 minutes remaining, Molins beat Kieran Gibbs down the right and his cross was slotted in by Berg from eight yards out.

Stuart Pearce
Pearce had previously lost three semi-finals as England player and coach

Seven minutes later Onuoha fouled Toivonen 22 yards out and the Swedish midfielder picked himself up and fired the resulting free-kick past Joe Hart to make it 3-2.

And Sweden - benefitting from England's inability to retain possession - grabbed a deserved equaliser on 81 minutes when Soder flicked the ball back at the far post and Berg was on hand to crash his seventh goal of the tournament into the roof of the net.

England's task in extra-time was made all the harder when substitute Campbell picked up his second booking for a lunging foul on Mikael Lustig.

Predictably, Sweden came closest to winning the game but Berg was denied a hat-trick when his header struck the crossbar and Hart was able to tip a 25-yard shot from Harbuzi over the bar.

The record of England's senior team in penalty shoot-outs is far from impressive, while memories of the heartbreaking defeat for the Under-21s two years ago were also fresh in the mind of England fans as the game went to penalties.

Milner gave England the worst possible start, slipping and horribly miscuing his penalty high and wide.

But the hosts were unable to capitalise though as Berg's penalty was saved by Hart.

The teams then traded four successful penalties each, during which Hart was booked for straying off his line to earn a yellow card that will keep him out of the final, although Pearce has stated he intends to appeal the decision.

Gibbs slotted England's sixth penalty but Molins' effort struck the outside of the post to give England victory.



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see also
Pearce's England banish penalty pain
27 Jun 09 |  Internationals
England to contest Hart booking
26 Jun 09 |  Internationals
England U21 1-1 Germany U21
22 Jun 09 |  Internationals
England U21 2-0 Spain U21
18 Jun 09 |  Internationals
England U21s 2-1 Finland U21s
15 Jun 09 |  Internationals
England U21 7-0 Azerbaijan U21
08 Jun 09 |  Internationals
England Under-21s hit by injuries
01 Jun 09 |  Internationals
Pearce stands defiant on Walcott
09 Jun 09 |  Internationals
Wenger fear over Walcott workload
25 May 09 |  Arsenal


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