Sky Blues upbeat ahead of date
Wilfried Zaha scored his first England Under-21s goal as Stuart
Pearce’s side recorded an eighth successive victory against Romania
on Thursday night, claiming a 3-0 success.
Playing as lone frontman, the Crystal Palace academy graduate,
who is on loan at Selhurst Park after joining Manchester United in
January, marked his seventh England U21s appearance with a superb
first-half strike, jinking past a number of defenders before
Substitutes Jack Robinson and Nathan Delfouneso added extra
gloss to what was an easy victory for England, who have now not
tasted defeat since November 2011 and won eight on the trot without
conceding a goal.
While the match may have ended comfortably, the start was a lot
less straightforward. Henri Lansbury, making his first start for
Pearce’s side in more than a year, saw his night ended after just
two minutes. The Nottingham Forest midfielder had burst down the
right but came off worse in a challenge with goalkeeper Laurentiu
Branescu, meaning Delfouneso was given an early introduction.
That bad start almost worsened soon after when Romania saw
strong penalty appeals waved away after Craig Dawson and Andre
Wisdom both handled in the box. It was a warning shot across the
bows that England heeded as they took control of the game.
Raheem Sterling stung the palms of Branescu after fine work on
the right by Zaha, before the Liverpool winger then forced the
Romanian goalkeeper into action at his near post with a cross-shot.
Zaha was the next to threaten the visitors’ goal, only for
Alexandru Cretu’s head to block the striker’s goalbound effort.
Romania were struggling to deal with England’s attacking intent
and, after Jonjo Shelvey saw 20-yard free-kick tipped behind,
Sterling cut inside from the left before flashing a shot just over.
The Young Lions’ barrage continued as Delfouneso and Danny Rose had
shots, before the opener came in the 34th minute.
Zaha collected a pass from Sterling and continued to skip past
the Romanian defence, before curling a sumptuous strike into the
top right-hand corner. It was no less than England deserved after
an impressive first-half performance – one which the home side
failed to continue into the second period.
The Young Lions were comfortable in possession but lacking a
cutting edge, although Sterling came close after collecting a fine
Jordan Henderson pass and cutting inside.
It was two other Liverpool players that combined to score
England Under-21s’ second of the night in the 61st minute. Shelvey
sent a fine right-wing cross to the back post, where half-time
substitute Robinson ghosted in to volley home.
A flurry of Romanian changes could not stem the tide as England
came close to a third, with Zaha turning sublimely only to be
denied by Branescu. Pearce made three changes for the final 16
minutes, with Tottenham’s Tom Carroll coming on for his England
Marvin Sordell saw a shot deflect behind as England continued to
press, before Delfouneso wrapped up a comfortable win with the
hosts’ third two minutes from time. He could have doubled his tally
for the night in second-half stoppage time, but Branescu easily
dealt with his late header.
Trapattoni has preferred Green, not universally popular among
fans and pundits, to Wigan’s James McCarthy for his side’s vital
World Cup qualifier in Sweden.
Trapattoni reasons that he wants the extra combative qualities
of Green to provide balance as he encourages the likes of Seamus
Coleman and Marc Wilson to attack on the flanks.
Green’s presence in squads has often divided opinion with many
doubting his ability to perform at international level.
But the 29-year-old has been a favourite of the Italian boss,
who has compared him to Italian hardman Gennaro Gattuso in the past
and has now added England World Cup winner Stiles to that list.
Trapattoni, who named his line-up at a press conference at the
Friends Arena, said: “International games are a little bit
different physically, in attitude, mentality, personality.
“If we are to have this balance, if Coleman goes (forward), I
said we must also push the defensive line. We have to stay in this
“Paul Green has the attitude. There are famous names –
“He was the player with character and attitude. He won the
league and Champions League.
“There have been players in England. Remember Nobby Stiles?
“They are players who were not full of class like (Lionel)
Messi, but football is not only this.
“We have to think about the balance. I can also change after I
see how the game develops. We can also change.”
Trapattoni had hinted at Green’s selection alongside Glenn
Whelan in midfield in training sessions throughout the week but he
insists 22-year-old McCarthy remains in his thoughts for the
He said: “McCarthy is in the squad. He plays well, but we are
playing away and I have seen so many games of Sweden.
“There are players who give time to other players. James is not
this typical player.
“He is young enough and maybe in one year or two years he will
be better than Whelan.”
Ireland go into the game a point behind second-placed Sweden in
Sweden in turn trail leaders Germany by three points but both
they and Ireland have a game in hand.
Other notable decisions by Trapattoni will see Aston Villa’s
Ciaran Clark partner John O’Shea in central defence and Millwall
goalkeeper David Forde make his first competitive start.
West Brom striker Shane Long will partner captain and record
goalscorer Robbie Keane in attack following the decision to leave
out Wolves’ Kevin Doyle.
Hull’s Robbie Brady was named on the wing but Trapattoni
revealed he had a slight doubt over him in a psychological sense
and challenged the 21-year-old to prove he was ready.
Trapattoni said: “There is no injury but I want to be sure.
“I spoke with him. I said, ‘Are you sure, are you okay?’ He
“I wish to push him. Brady is creative. He can put the opponents
“He showed (this) against Poland, going inside. He is clever and
I told him, ‘You must repeat this game’.
“It is my provocation. He will now see in the newspaper tomorrow
he is a doubt. It is only psychological.”
The presence of Brady, Coleman, Wilson and Green gives the Irish
side a different look but Trapattoni is keen to evolve team
following last summer’s Euro 2012 failure.
He said: “In the last friendly game against Poland we (showed
we) are changing slowly.
“These young players give me confidence, give me trust about
what they can do.
“It is important they play how I know they can. I see them not
only training but with their clubs.
“We are not great individual players like Messi, or with Sweden
“But we are a good team with good balance, good attitude. We are
very practical and technical.
“I am confident for this. Every day when I see the team in
training I am happy for my side. We must play our game.”
Ireland were thrashed 6-1 by Germany earlier in the campaign and
are now, most realistically, in a battle for second place with
Sweden and their opponents next Tuesday, Austria.
Trapattoni said: “The next match will obviously be very
important for our qualification.
“It will be important to keep in mind there is only one point
between us and Sweden in our pool.
“As always every little detail is important to achieve the
The match in the Swedish capital is set to be played under the
retractable roof at the Friends Arena with temperatures as low as
minus nine degrees forecast during the game.
Trapattoni said: It is cold but for me it would be better
“But there are spectators and FIFA can decide.
“We have to play 90 minutes with it closed or open.”
The England skipper endured a frustrating period when he was
sidelined with niggling groin problems.
But he has been a virtual ever present for Liverpool this season
in addition to spearheading his country’s hopes of reaching the
2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
Gerrard said: “I’m benefiting from my own training schedule, I’m
playing games and feeling really good.
“Ninety per cent of the players I play with at Liverpool and
England have a very similar programme to myself.
“Mine is certainly working at the moment and I’m feeling really
“Every player wants to play without niggles. That is how you can
perform as high as you can.
“That’s where I feel I am at the moment and I’m really pleased
with my body.
“I had a frustrating period with my groins at one stage in which
I missed a year’s football – but I’m certainly making up for that
England are currently two points adrift of group leaders
Montenegro, whom they visit on Tuesday after Friday evening’s clash
away to minnows San Marino.
Gerrard insists both games are of equal importance in ensuring
Roy Hodgson’s side secure pole position in the group.
He said: “We understand the game on Tuesday will be a lot more
difficult and people are going to focus more on that game.
“But this game in San Marino is no more less important than
Tuesday because at the end of the day we get the same out of it if
we win, three points.
“We want to take control of the group and want to wake up on
Wednesday in control of this group because we don’t play another
qualifier until next season.
“It is very important we take a foothold now and are in the
driving seat.” Gerrard is adamant England will pay the utmost
respect to San Marino who were beaten 5-0 at Wembley after adopting
a defence-minded approach.
He said: “We do understand who we are up against. On paper we
are stronger than the opposition. But sometimes when you play these
teams, they cause different problems.
“It becomes an attack versus defence game, they try and slow the
game down, commit fouls, will try and slow us down because we like
to play at a fast tempo.
“I’m sure their plan will stay the same for 90 minutes. It
certainly did at Wembley, to try to keep the score down, and we are
expecting the same again.
“We need to show the same levels of professionalism and same
intensity to get that breakthrough as soon as possible.
“The longer the game goes on at nil-nil, it gets a bit edgy.
“I’m sure the pitch will have a few issues as well but, if we
approach it professionally and near the level we can play, it
should be enough to get the three points.”
The Sky Blues and owners SISU are due in the High Court in
London tomorrow morning battling against the threat of an
The application has come from Arena Coventry Limited (ACL), who
manage the Ricoh Arena on behalf of joint owners the Alan Edward
Higgs Charity and Coventry City Council.
A spokesman for the club tonight said the decision to place the
non-operating subsidiary into administration will not impact the
running of the npower League One outfit.
The statement on the club’s official website read: “It is
important to stress that the football club itself is not under
“This is merely a property subsidiary which owns no material
assets and has no employees, on or off the pitch.
“The club can confirm that all staff wages, PAYE and all other
creditor commitments will continue to be met as before by Coventry
City Football Club Holdings.
“Unlike other instances of clubs being taken either wholly or
partially into administration, there are no HMRC or VAT
implications and the football club will continue to trade as normal
“Our main objective now is to remain competitive on the pitch
and give Steven Pressley and the playing staff our full backing and
Coventry currently sit eighth in npower League One, three points
off a play-off place.
Pressley is desperate to see Coventry avoid administration in
the High Court tomorrow and the subsequent 10-point deduction that
goes with it.
The Scot, who only made the switch from Falkirk two weeks ago,
admits it would be “mission impossible” regarding City’s promotion
hopes were they to suffer the penalty, with the club currently in
eighth place in npower League One and just three points off the
He said: “It’s a concern, there’s no doubt about it. My biggest
concern is for the players and supporters because it’s been 39
games of hard work and following the team. It’s them who suffer the
most. That’s my biggest concern.
“I desperately hope that we find a solution and we can continue
challenging for those potential play-off places.
“We can only wait until we hear the verdict and continue to
prepare for Saturday’s game in the hope we can still go on and gain
promotion this year.
“The players and the supporters are the ones who really suffer
out of this, that’s why I’m desperate for some form of
Coventry travel to Fratton Park on Saturday to tackle
Portsmouth, a club who have twice suffered administration in as
many years of late.
Fans from City’s supporters’ group, the Sky Blue Trust, will
meet pre-match with their counterparts from the Pompey Supporters’
Trust, who aim to complete their takeover of the south coast club
The Sky Blue Trust hope tomorrow’s court verdict does not bring
administration but are desperately hoping for an end to the matter
for the sake of the midlands club.
Jan Mokrzycki, media officer for the Trust, told Press
Association Sport: “We just want to see a resolution, we just don’t
want the matter dragging on and on. We want it to come to a head
and be sorted out so we can get back to football.
“Whatever the outcome is, we want the supporters in general to
be taken more seriously by whoever the owners are of the club and
the one thing the Trust is pushing for is more fan involvement and
more fan involvement from an ownership point of view as well.”
He added: “I think it’s holding the whole club back, at the
moment we’re very close to the play-offs yet all we can talk about
is when would be the best time to take a points deduction should it
come. That’s not what it should be about.
“We should be getting excited not worrying about points
deductions, people coming in, people going etc. With all the
off-field activity it’s diluting that excitement.
“Hopefully, whatever happens tomorrow it will be a new start for
the club, either with Sisu or new owners. Hopefully it will draw a
line under the whole sorry business and we can move on.”