England U21 players attacked after win in Serbia
England players and officials were attacked by their Serbian opponents and racially abused by home fans moments after a 1-0 win over Serbia in a European Under-21 play-off last night.
England, leading 1-0 from the first leg, scored with the last kick of the second leg in the provincial town of Krusevac to secure a 2-0 aggregate victory. Ugly scenes ensued as they were then pelted by missiles while they celebrated the winning goal scored by Connor Wickham.
The trouble quickly escalated when Serbian players started attacking England’s players and the crowd’s monkey chants could clearly be heard as England defender Danny Rose was shown a red card for kicking the ball into the crowd after the final whistle.
“I think there were one or two racist incidents from the crowd, certainly, and they have been reported to Uefa and they will have to deal with that,” England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce said afterwards.
“It’s very sad. A lot is happening in our country in stamping out racism and I am proud of the reaction of our players at the end. Its a real shame because over two legs it was a good tie between two close teams.
“No matter what provocation comes your way, we are in a profession where you have to hold your dignity. That is vitally important as a professional footballer. It was a tough evening tonight for them.”
Rose, standing apart from the main group of players, got involved in a row with home spectators and began mimicking a monkey by sticking his arms underneath his armpits to demonstrate the racial nature of the abuse. At the same time, England players and officials were attacked by some of the Serbian players with punches thrown as they tried to enter the tunnel.
Stuart Pearce’s men recorded a sixth clean sheet in seven outings to hold out the Serbs on a wet and windy night at the Mladost Stadium in Krusevac.
Serbia had shown from the outset they intended to be more positive than they were in Norwich last week and, with Nikola Ninkovic coming into the side, they had a much greater cutting edge. But it was England who had the first serious opportunity as Marvin Sordell hit the woodwork after nine minutes.
Captain Jordan Henderson found the Bolton forward with a superb through ball, but Sordell cracked his shot against the near post after neatly cutting inside Slobodan Medojevic to create space 12 yards out.
The hosts showed their danger as Nemanja Kojic found space down the right and pulled the ball back for the livewire Ninkovic, who shot tamely at Jack Butland.
There was a brief hold-up during the first half when one of several flares lit by Serbian fans found its way into Aleksic’s goal area. The hosts continued to press as Ninkovic beat Adam Smith but fired wide from distance, and further efforts came in from Kojic and Milivojevic as Serbia ended the first half on top.
Serbia, knowing they had to score to have a chance of qualification for Euro 2013, had a late chance from a free-kick and threw everyone – including their goalkeeper – forward. But England defended it and broke away through Thomas Ince, the son of Paul Ince, who slid in Wickham, prompting the mayhem that followed.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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