Fri, Jun 07, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Azzurri down England 1-0, hosts Israel held by Norway

Reuters, TEL AVIV, Israel

England goalkeeper Jack Butland, right, fails to save a shot by Italy’s Lorenzo Insigne, unseen, in their UEFA Under-21 Championship Group A match at Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

England conceded their first goal in 889 minutes of play when they went down 1-0 to Italy on the opening day of the UEFA Under-21 Championship in Israel on Wednesday.

A goal in stoppage-time for 10-man Norway dampened the festive atmosphere for the hosts, who were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw in the other Group A game.

Israel began staging its most important international sporting event in 45 years amid tight security following a politically charged buildup.

European soccer’s governing body UEFA had held firm against calls from pro-Palestinian activists to move the tournament away from Israel, who are the weakest of the eight teams competing, because of restrictions on the movement of its players.

Italy displayed plenty of skill against England’s powerful lineup and came away with the win thanks to SSC Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne, who scored with a curling free-kick in the 79th minute to leave goalkeeper Jack Butland stranded.

England, who had won their previous nine matches, are bottom of the group, while Italy went top. Norway and Israel occupy the middle two places with one point each.

Israel captain Nir Biton put the hosts ahead with a 16th-minute penalty after Norway had dominated the opening phase of play.

It was a first goal for Israel in a finals after they lost all three group fixtures in 2007, their only previous appearance, without scoring.

Norway leveled in the 24th minute following a defensive error when Marcus Pedersen rattled home a low drive, but the visitors were reduced to 10 men a minute before the break when Vegar Hedenstad was sent off for bringing down Israel’s last man, Mohammed Kalibat, as he headed toward goal.

Norway pressed forward despite their numerical disadvantage, hitting the post twice and the crossbar once, but they were punished when Alon Turgeman gave Israel the lead in the 71st minute.

They looked tired toward the end, but mounted a late assault on the Israel goal and were rewarded with a draw when substitute Harmeet Singh scored in the first minute of stoppage-time.

In the first Group B action yesterday, Spain were set to play Russia and Germany to clash with the Netherlands.

The two top finishers in each group play in the semi-finals, with the final in Jerusalem on June 18.

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