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Italy takes top of Group A at U21 with draw against Norway

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TSN.ca Staff
6/11/2013 2:16:10 PM
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Norway almost looked to have a victory and first place in Group A wrapped up in its group stage finale against Italy on Tuesday.

After almost a full 90 minutes of goalless play, Italian captain Luca Caldirola brought down Norwegian captain Stefan Strandberg on a cross into the box. Croatian referee Ivan Bebek judged the foul enough to warrant a penalty kick.

Strandberg walked up himself and coolly buried the ball into the bottom left corner for his first ever competitive goal in 24 matches for Norway's under-21 squad.

By time the dust settled on Sandberg's goal, Norway was looking at a 1-0 advantage in the match's 90th minute, but Italy still found a way to break through in added time.

The hero for Italy this time around would be second half substitute Andrea Bertolacci, who lifted a shot over both Strandberg and Norwegian keeper Arild Ostbo to equalize on what would prove to be the final touch of the match.

The result gave Italy first place in Group A with seven points through three games, while Norway claimed second in the group with five points – one win and two draws – through its opening three matches.

Meanwhile, Israel and England faced off in what was from the opening whistle almost certain to be a consolation match.

England was mathematically eliminated heading in and Israel needed an Italy win and a dramatic shift in goal differential to emerge from Group A.

After a scoreless first half, Israel had a golden opportunity to get on the board when Nir Biton's shot from 30 metres out beat England keeper Jason Steele but rattled off the crossbar.

Israel's breakthrough came from an Omri Altman shot from just outside the box.

The midfielder's strike skipped past Steele's outstretched hand and into the lower right corner of the net in the 80th minute giving the hosts a 1-0 lead.

The hosts would hold on to the lead for a thrilling victory in front of a packed Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. Israel has bowed out of the tournament, but not before claiming a win in front of its home fans.

England, meanwhile, bows out of the tournament without a win, having gone 0-3 and scoring just once along the way.

Andrea Bertolacci (Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images)
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