England 0 Switzerland 1: Under-17s go through despite defeat to Swiss

England's Bobby Duncan feels the force of a challenge from Switzerland's Alexandre Jankewitz in the European Under-17s match in Rotherham (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
England's Bobby Duncan feels the force of a challenge from Switzerland's Alexandre Jankewitz in the European Under-17s match in Rotherham (Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire).
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THIS was very different to the cauldron that Rotherham United’s home is expected to be come next Wednesday night when the play-offs make a welcome return to South Yorkshire.

Not only were the voices in the stands a notch or two higher than the full-throated roar that will be backing Paul Warne’s men against Scunthorpe United in the decisive leg of their League One semi-final clash, thanks to the young make-up of last night’s 6,146 crowd.

But the flat nature of the on-field fare together with England going through via a convoluted system that only caused head-scratching among those at the New York Stadium in the closing stages meant this was not an evening that set the pulses racing.

Felix Mambimbi netted the only goal in first-half stoppage-time, but it was not enough to prevent Switzerland crashing out after both last night’s combatants plus Italy finished Group A level on six points.

As per UEFA rules the final table was then decided on a round robin of head-to-head results – with all three matches against bottom side Israel taken out of the equation – and that brought salvation for England, who went through as runners-up behind the Italians despite having an inferior goal difference to the Swiss overall.

The upshot is the young Lions will face Norway in the last eight on Sunday at Burton Albion, as Italy tackle Sweden at the New York Stadium.

Steve Cooper, the Under-17s’ manager, said: “The objective was to get through and we have done that. We are out of the group and we look forward, not back.

“We didn’t play to the level we can, but that is youth football. There are highs and lows. There is no drama and I do believe we will be better for this experience.”

Defeat to Switzerland, even if progress to the knockout stage was secured, was a disappointing way to bring the curtain down on a group stage that had seen England beat both Israel and Italy 2-1.

It could, though, have been a lot worse with only a stoppage-time save from Luca Ashby-Hammond – that denied Jan Wornhard – preventing the Swiss claiming the two-goal winning margin that would have taken Stefan Marini’s side through at the expense of the young Lions.

Had that late chance gone in, Arsenal’s Xavier Amaechi would have been left to rue the calamitous error that led to Switzerland’s opener.

There seemed little danger when Wornhard’s scuffed cross bounced towards the winger only for his attempted clearance to make no contact with the ball.

Mambimbi reacted quickly, darting inside a defender before drilling a crisp finish past Luca Ashby-Hammond from 15 yards.

Despite England having started on the front foot and been comfortably the better side in the first 30 minutes, there had been signs that Switzerland were growing into the game.

First, Bledian Krasniqi had brought a flying save from Fulham goalkeeper Ashby-Hammond.

Then, after the home defence had been opened up far too easily, Krasniqi fired into the side-netting from a tight angle.

Mambimbi’s subsequent breakthrough made redundant all the impressive attacking play England had managed in the opening stages.

Arvin Appiah had brought a fine reflex block from goalkeeper Lucio Soldini, who then claimed a curled free-kick from Amaechi at the second attempt.

Soldini’s best moment, however, came on 26 minutes when he somehow kept out Folarin Balogun from point-blank range.

Amaechi, superb apart from the mistake that led to the only goal, created more havoc in the opening minute of the restart only for Arvin Appiah to fire wide from four yards out.

In terms of chances to equalise, that was as good as it got for England with even the introduction of a youngster from Huddersfield Town, the club who have been able to do no wrong this week, unable to spark a comeback despite Matthew Daly showing some neat touches.

“In terms of the tournament the challenge is to make (last night) a blessing,” added Cooper, who was full of praise for the backing his side received from the Rotherham sporting public.

“We did enough in the first two games to get through. Let’s learn from it and make sure we put right what didn’t maybe go the way we wanted. We did miss three glorious chances, but the main thing is we are through.

“As for the quarter-finals, we know Norway have only conceded one goal in a tough group. But we can’t wait. This is the quarter-finals of the Euros; brilliant.”

England: Ashby-Hammond; Crowe, Alese, Laird, Saka; Doyle (Dixon-Bonner 13), Garner; Appiah, Balogun (Duncan 52), Amaechi; Anjorin (Daly 57). Unused substitutes: Dewhurst, Ogbeta, John-Jules, Daley-Campbell, Coyle.

Switzerland: Soldini; Jacovic, Omeragic, Sauter, Wornhard; Sohm, Jankewitz; Krasniqi (Vasic 69), Vonmoos, Mambimbi (Werthmuller 73); Tushi. Unused substitutes: De Mol, Solimando, Mesonero, Rieder, Witzig.

Referee: H Fesnic (Romania).