Friday 07 September 2012

Shelvey fires England U21s towards play-offs

Jonjo Shelvey inspires England to win in Baku; Spain reach play-offs

  • Jonjo Shelvey scored his first goal for England Under-21s against Azerbaijan

Shelvey shines

Liverpool's Jonjo Shelvey scored one and set up another as England strengthened their claim to qualify for the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship with a 2-0 win against Azerbaijan.

England took the lead in Baku after 28 minutes when Steven Caulker, the Tottenham Hotspur defender who also had two headers cleared off the line, rose highest to meet Shelvey’s free-kick, and the Liverpool midfielder crowned a fine display with the visitors' second goal seven minutes from time after Sunderland's Connor Wickham had knocked on Caulker's pass upfield.

Stuart Pearce's side are two points clear of Norway, against whom they must avoid defeat in their final Group Eight game in Chesterfield on Monday to reach the play-offs.

Full report (read here)

Robbie Brady, of Manchester United, beat Liverpool goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi from the penalty spot but his goal could not prevent a Republic of Ireland side including Arsenal's Conor Henderson from suffering a 2-1 Group 7 defeat by Hungary, which dashed their qualifying hopes.

De Gea unbeaten

United team-mate David de Gea kept a clean sheet to help Spain earn a point against Switzerland in Sion. The reigning European champions, including Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu, dominated possession but failed to find a breakthrough against the side they beat in last year's final and who lined up with Fulham's Pajtim Kasami in the No 10 role.

Spain nonetheless reached the play-offs as a result of their Group 5 draw.

Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Jordan Archer also had to be on his mettle as he was called upon to make a crucial first-half save from Billy Bernard before Scotland scored three unanswered second-half goals against Luxembourg to keep their qualification prospects alive.

Kagawa in action

There were also senior players in international action on Thursday night, with Southampton's new signing Maya Yoshida playing all 90 minutes of Japan's friendly against UAE in Tokyo. In a warm-up for their FIFA World Cup qualifier on Tuesday against Iraq, Japan won 1-0 thanks to a goal from Mike Havenaar with Manchester United's Shinji Kagawa featuring in the first half only.

There were also two Premier League players in the Sweden team who beat China 1-0 in Stockholm. Sebastian Larsson, of Sunderland, and West Bromwich Albion defender Jonas Olsson both played the whole of the match, which was won by a goal from former Bolton Wanderers forward Johan Elmander early in the second half.

2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship results

Group 2
Slovenia 2-1 Sweden
Ukraine 5-1 Malta

Group 5
Switzerland 0-0 Spain
Georgia 2-1 Estonia

Group 6
Russia 4-1 Poland
Moldova 2-1 Albania

Group 7
Italy 7-0 Liechtenstein
Hungary 2-1 Republic of Ireland

Group 8
Azerbaijan 0-2 England
Belgium 1-3 Norway

Group 9
Scotland 3-0 Luxembourg
Latvia 1-1 Kazakhstan

Group 10
Scotland 3-0 Luxembourg

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Key Points

  • England moved to the brink of the 2013 UEFA EURO Under-21 play-offs with a win in Azerbaijan
  • Steven Caulker and Jonjo Shelvey were on target for the visitors
  • Premier League players also involved in friendlly action for Japan and Sweden