30 November 2012

Last-gasp England lift Victory Shield

Jordan Rossiter lifts the Victory Shield, the latest England captain to do so.
A dramatic late winner from Giorgio Rasulo gave England a victory over Scotland which ensured that they would win the Victory Shield outright yet again.

Kenny Swain's boys were already guaranteed to lift the Shield for a 12th successive year, but they went into the match in Burton knowing that a Scottish win would see them share the spoils with the Scots. In the end, victory meant that they ended the tournament with a perfect record of three wins and no goals conceded.

Just two minutes into the action, England had their first chance. A fantastic cross from Mandela Egbo right on the byline found Joshua Onomah, who flashed a header just wide.

Five minutes later, a free-kick from Mukhtar Ali led to a goalmouth scramble in the Scotland area. A number of English players had half-chances, but the opportunity to score was lost when Onomah shot wide from inside the six-yard box.

Scotland weren't without their attacking threats. Calvin Miller again looked lively in the opposition's half, as did Greg Kiltie, whose game would end at half-time due to injury.

That said, most of the action was in Scotland's half. The Tartan Army kept the deadlock intact thanks to some assured goalkeeping from Rangers' Robbie McCrorie, who midway through the half did well to catch a low effort from England skipper Jordan Rossiter.

The Scots' best chance of the half came after 32 minutes, but Ciaran Lafferty couldn't get a clean connection to Miller's cross from the right wing.

In injury-time, Fulham striker Patrick Roberts had a chance to put England ahead, but gave himself too much time, and his low shot was cleared just inches from the line by Michael Kelly.

When play resumed, Onomah continued to struggle up front for the Three Lions. On 42 minutes, he went through on goal, but some strong defending on Adam Hodge's part kept him at bay.

Demetri Mitchell, one of England's better performers, brought a catch out of McCrorie with an audacious long-distance shot in the 48th minute. Sadly for him, injury would soon bring a premature end to his game.

England goalkeeper Ryan Huddart was having as good a game as his counterpart, and on 52 minutes made a fine save from Kelly's free-kick.

Seven minutes after that, McCrorie was equal to a free-kick taken by Ryan Ledson, and a few moments later, the Scottish custodian kept out Onomah's flicked header. When Brandon Fox tried his luck from inside the area in the 69th minute, he was also denied by McCrorie.

After a nervy final 10 minutes of normal time, the game sprung back into life in injury-time. Seconds into stoppage time, Scotland substitute Joe Thomson saw his header blocked by the left leg of Huddart, and Tom Brewitt cleared before Thomson could fire the rebound home.

Three minutes later, Scottish hearts were broken. Callum Cooke won the ball for the hosts, and exchanged passes with Rasulo before aiming a shot at goal. Ryan Caird's tackle on Cooke deflected the ball towards Rasulo, and the 15-year-old - who has already played for the Milton Keynes Dons first-team - couldn't possibly miss.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Scotland, who have shown plenty of promise in their first year under Mark Wotte's guidance. With some of the tournament's standout players in their ranks, it's difficult to believe that they only finished 3rd with one win and two losses.

But once again, the plaudits have gone to England. They have retained the Shield with three wins out of three, and there can be no doubt that they deserve it.

ENGLAND: Huddart; Dasilva, Gomez (Adarabioyo), Brewitt, Egbo; Mitchell (Cooke), Ledson (Pybus), Rossiter, Ali (Fox); Onomah, Roberts (Rasulo).
SCORER: Rasulo 80.
Booked: Brewitt 52.

SCOTLAND: McCrorie; Kelly, Breslin, Hodge, Wardrop; Caird, Boyd (Nesbitt), Petrie; Kiltie (Spence), Lafferty (Hardie), Miller (Thomson).
Booked: Petrie 50.

TDTR Man of the Match: Robbie McCrorie (Scotland). The Rangers goalkeeper showed great maturity on this big occasion, and after shutting out England for so long with some fantastic saves, he didn't deserve to be on the losing team.

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