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England 0 Italy 0
Italy won 4-3 on penalties
England's hopes of playing in next year's FIFA Women's Under-17 World Cup came to an end in the cruellest of fashions as they were beaten in a penalty shootout at Burton.
A place in the Finals was on offer for the winners of the third place play-off and with so much at stake, the game was a tense affair but England will look back at one moment in the second half when Sophie Stamp had a goal controversially disallowed for offside.
The game started similarly to the sides' meeting in the group stages with Italy creating the early chances. Kirstie Levell was called into action when she saved from a Gloria Martinelli header and from the resulting corner, Martina Piemonte hooked her shot just wide.
After a frenetic start, the game began to settle down and England began to take more possession with a slow, patient build up and Keira Walsh prompting in midfield alongside the hard working Mollie Rouse.
England were finding it difficult to contain the skilful Manuela Giugliano in midfield though and she attempted to thread a number of passes for the strikers to run on to. On two occasions, Gabrielle George came to her side's rescue with two perfectly timed tackles to prevent goalscoring chances, including one excellent intervention as Martinelli made her way into the area.
The first half ended goalless but England thought they had made the breakthrough on 47 minutes as, following a corner, Walsh floated the ball into the area for Sophie Stamp to head firmly home but celebrations were quickly ruled out by an offside flag. The midfielder appeared to have made run from a deep position to the near post and the flag may have been raised against Chloe Kelly but the decision appeared to be a very harsh one.
Italy were next to go close as Federica Cavicchia clipped an excellent pass into the path of Martinelli who bore down on goal but shot straight at Levell. Then, Annamaria Serturini drove a teasing low centre across the England goal but Valentina Bergamaschi failed to get a touch in front of goal.
Lucy Porter had a shot saved and a Walsh effort was charged down whilst at the other end, Giugliano made a threatening run to the edge of the area where she curled her shot just wide.
With penalties looming very large, both teams tried frantically to win the game in the last five minutes and play surged from end to end. England needed to withstand a number of late corners but defended superbly, led well once again by the inspirational Williamson, and goalkeeper Levell impressed once again with faultless handling.
Despite a thrilling end to the match as the teams threw everything they could at each other, neither could make a breakthrough and the World Cup place was to be decided by the most unfair of methods.
Alice Hassall tried to give England an early lead but her kick was saved by Francesca Durante, Lisa Boattin's shot went in off the post. Williamson and Giugliano confidently stroked home their kicks but then Durante produced a superb save from Kelly, tipping her shot onto the post. Martinelli tucked home the next to put Italy within one penalty of victory.
Brogan McHugh needed to score to keep England alive and did so emphatically, then Levell saved from her counterpart Durante to give her side hope. Walsh did what she had to do and scored to put the pressure on Marta Vergani but she kept her cool to fire home the winner and start wild Italian celebrations, while the desolate England players could only look on.
England: Kirstie Levell, Alice Hassall, Jemma Purfield, Mollie Rouse, Leah Williamson, Gabriella George, Lucy Porter, Sophie Stamp (sub Brogan McHugh 71mins), Chloe Kelly, Keira Walsh, Atlanta Primus (sub Evie Clarke 40mins). Subs not used: Sian Rogers, Phillippa Cowley, Ella Williams, Rebecca Lloyd, Ellie Wilkinson.
Italy: Francesca Durante, Marta Vergani, Lisa Boattin, Federica Cavicchia, Nicole Peressotti, Sara Mella (sub Beatrice Abati 59mins), Federica Rizza, Annamaria Serturini (sub Marta Mascarello 72mins), Gloria Martinelli, Manuela Giugliano, Martina Piemonte (sub Valentina Bergamaschi 40mins). Subs not used: Alessia Piazza, Laura Perin, Flaminia Simonetti, Valery Vigilucci.
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Lucy Porter gets away from Sara Mella
(middle) Keira Walsh closes down Italian captain Lisa Boattin
(bottom) Mollie Rouse gets the better of Beatrice Abati in midfield
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