Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Changes Pay off for Pearce; Youngsters Recover from Early Goal to Top Group

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Changes Pay off for Pearce; Youngsters Recover from Early Goal to Top Group

Article excerpt

STUART Pearce's decision to make 10 changes paid off as Jack Rodwell's equaliser against Germany in Halmstad ensured England Under-21s finished top of European Championships Group B, writes MIKE MCGRATH.

After falling behind to Gonzalo Castro's opener at Orjans Vall, Pearce's fringe players put in the type of performance he was wanting and Everton youngster Rodwell was the outstanding player in a decent team performance.

Rodwell's maturity in midfield was rewarded when he headed the equaliser, meaning England play their semi-final in Gothenburg on Friday. The equation before kick-off was simple enough - England were in the next round and Germany needed a point to join them in the last four and knock Spain out.

Pearce may not have needed a result but he has an intense rivalry with Germany, stemming from penalty shoot-out defeats at the World Cup in 1990 and 1996's European Championships/ Despite all the history, the bigger picture is the semi-final and Pearce changed his entire team apart from Middlesbrough's Adam Johnson, with the likes of Theo Walcott and Micah Richards on the bench. After dropping Walcott for the win over Spain, it was another surprising gamble from the Under-21 coach and it looked like the decision had backfired when Germany took the lead after four minutes.

Smoke from a flare lit by German fans had barely cleared the pitch when Jerome Boateng played Castro behind the England defence and the Bayer Leverkusen youngster slotted home between Scott Loach's legs. It was a big blow for Pearce's squad players but they rolled their sleeves up and were the better team for the rest of the half. Their first sight of goal came from a Craig Gardner corner, which Rodwell headed over the crossbar.

Gardner, the skipper for the evening, also got a header on target from Andrew Driver's cross after Johnson's skill on the left had started a slick move. …

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