KEIR RADNEDGE in JERUSALEM: Israel beat England 1-0 in what was a last match of the tournament for both nations at the UEFA European Under-21 finals here in the Teddy stadium.
But while the hosts found happy consolation in victory for their predicted elimination the outcome was a profound final humiliation for England in what was almost certainly manager Stuart Pearce’s last match in charge.
The other concluding Group A game ended in a 1-1 draw between Norway and Italy who topped the table with seven points followed the Norwegians on five, Israel on three and England none.
Central midfielder Ofir Krieff was Israel’s hero after a low drive from just outside the penalty box edged wide of keeper Jason Steele’s left-hand and inside the p0st for the only goal. England were left with 10 minutes to try to save the game and failed even to create any serious dangerous opportunities.
Pearce, whose contract expires at the end of the month, had no excuses to offer. He thought no stone had been left unturned in preparation and was left hugely disappointed with the three tournament defeats and by his players’ poor form.
He said: “I’m not coming out here and defending anyone. I’m sick to the back teeth of doing that in this tournament. The standard we’ve set ourselves over a three-year period is a million miles away from what we’ve shown in this period. I honestly don’t believe I should be here answering questions on behalf of [the players].
“They should be here answering questions on why their performances were so poor. I don’t think it’s my responsibility at this stage to answer for a performance as bad as that. The basics – holding possession of the ball, passing it and moving it, wanting to get into shape when the opposition have the ball – we’ve been really poor.
“We didn’t turn up . . . If I could give an excuse I would. But we prepared thoroughly. We haven’t performed for whatever reason – whether it was real quality players left behind in England or what – but then Germany haven’t either.
“I’m manager of the team but maybe today the players should take some responsibility as well. We’ve not performed in this tournament. There may be a multitude of reasons and I have to take it on the chin.
“We showed really form on the way here but this is the business end of the tournament and we got what we deserved. We didn’t deserve to win a game and credit to the Israelis, they deserved to win tonight.”
Pearce’s disappointment was sharpened because of previous form and results.
He said: “If you look aroundEuropeyou’ll see that our team’s the only one who’ve been here four times running. We’ve lost very few games over the years and played some really good football.
“But we’ve got players here who have not performed, barring Andre Wisdom who should be captain for the next two years. Otherwise out players didn’t bring their form here. I’m 100pc disappointed.”