FOOTBALL NEWS

24/06/2012 21:52, Report by Adam Bostock
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Ashley's England agony

England's all-too-familiar exit from a major tournament means Manchester United have only one representative left at Euro 2012.

Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck, Ashley Young and Phil Jones are all out after Roy Hodgson's side lost the Kiev quarter-final 4-2 on penalties to Italy, while Nani stays on for the semi-finals with Portugal.

The Italians were ultimately worthy winners, even if they only had a 0-0 draw to show for their superior efforts after extra-time against the resilient Three Lions. But to lose on penalties is always cruel, and particularly so on this occasion for United winger Young who smashed his kick against the crossbar when he could have put England 3-2 up in the shoot-out. When the subsequent penalties were missed by Ashley Cole and scored by Alessandro Diamanti, Italy were through to face Germany in the last four.

One of England's best moves in the match itself featured a one-two link-up between Rooney and Welbeck, who joined Young in keeping their places in an unchanged team. Welbeck received a back-heel from his strike partner before sidefooting his shot high and wide in the 32nd minute. Rooney had earlier gone closer to scoring when he dived to meet Glen Johnson's right-wing cross, only for his header under pressure to clear Gianluigi Buffon's crossbar. Johnsen had forced Buffon's first save of the game when he burst into the area inside the opening five minutes.

Despite this handful of chances, it was Italy who dominated the play in the first period and provided the more regular threat of a breakthrough with Juventus' former Milan playmaker Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli testing his club colleagues Joleon Lescott at centre-back and goalkeeper Joe Hart.

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