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UEFA U21 Championship

  • 6 September 2012
  • • 16:00
  • • Dalğa Arena, Bakı (Baku)
  • Referee: A. Giachos
  • • Attendance: 580

Azerbaijan Under-21 0-2 England Under-21: Shelvey inspires Pearce's side to victory

Azerbaijan Under-21 0-2 England Under-21: Shelvey inspires Pearce's side to victory

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The Young Lions ran out comfortable 2-0 winners in Baku with the Liverpool man instrumental, setting up the first and scoring the second to put them in pole position in Group 8

England Under-21s continued their excellent progress towards qualification for next year's European Championships with a comfortable 2-0 win over Azerbaijan Under-21s in Baku.

Steven Caulker gave the visitors the lead with a glancing header from Jonjo Shelvey's free kick, before the Liverpool man settled the tie in the closing stages with a well-taken volley from a Connor Wickham flick-on.

Stuart Pearce had spoken before the game of the importance of finishing top of the group and avoiding some of the continent's heavyweights in the play-off round, and his players have left themselves in firm command after this result.

This victory puts the Young Lions five points clear of Norway at the top of Group Eight, and will secure this spot should Belgium beat the Scandinavians later this evening.

Pearce gave an Under-21s debut to Blackpool winger Tom Ince, and the former Liverpool man provided a useful outlet for his team throughout, with his pace and trickery matched only by Wilfried Zaha on the opposite flank.

Shelvey was the player who really caught the eye though, as the 20-year-old midfielder put in a characteristically confident display to overshadow skipper Jordan Henderson and take command of the centre of the park.

It was his cross which set up England's opener, as he delivered a pinpoint free kick into the box for Spurs defender Caulker to rise unmarked and nod in from six yards.

England looked at their most dangerous when getting to the byline and throwing crosses into the box, a tactic that kept Azeri goalkeeper Salahat Aghayev on his toes throughout.

After a dominant first half from England, the hosts came out stronger after the break and managed to cause a few problems on the break.

First Javid Imamverdiyev curled a decent effort just past the far post, before former Everton man Araz Abdullayev forced the first real save out of England's Ben Amos with a well-struck volley down to the keeper's near post.

However, you always sensed that England were keeping something in reserve, and they duly struck again in the 83rd minute to put the result beyond doubt.

Again it was Shelvey and Caulker who linked up for the goal, with the Spurs centre-back sending a long pass for substitute Connor Wickham to nod into the path of Shelvey, who surged unmarked through the middle to tuck a comfortable finish past the exposed Aghayev.

It was no more than England and Shelvey deserved, although you could not help but feel a bit sorry for the Azeris, who battled hard and showed some promising touches going forward in the second half.