England has been knocked out of the European Under-21 Championship with one group stage match still to play after suffering a 3-1 defeat to Norway in Petah Tikva.
Stuart Pearce's side looked to have shrugged off the disappointment of its poor performance and defeat to Italy before Fredrik Semb Berge gave Norway the lead, and could not recover after falling behind.
Jo Inge Berget added a second goal before halftime and Tore Ole Skullerud's team was cruising when Magnus Wolff Eikrem put the game beyond doubt after the break.
Craig Dawson earned and converted a penalty five minutes later but England showed few signs of mounting a dramatic comeback in the remaining half hour.
Pearce was boosted by the returns of Wilfried Zaha from injury and Tom Ince and Danny Rose from suspension, so Connor Wickham, Marvin Sordell and Jack Robinson dropped out. Elsewhere, Nathaniel Chalobah replaced Jonjo Shelvey in midfield and Adam Smith came in for Nathaniel Clyne at right-back.
England started encouragingly and dominated possession in the early stages but Norway reminded the Young Lions of its threat on the counterattack when Omar Elabdellaoui burst forward from right back only to shoot high and wide of goal.
Pearce's team struggled, too, to defend set-pieces. After Jack Butland had flapped at one corner, Eikrem's next delivery from the left was only partially cleared and when the midfielder returned the ball to the England box, Semb Berge steered home a fine finish on the turn.
Steven Caulker was then caught between two Norway players outside the England area and when Nielsen picked out Berget's run with a clever lobbed pass, the Molde forward smashed a volley beyond Butland to leave the Young Lions on the brink.
The Tottenham defender thought he had made amends shortly before halftime when he headed home Henderson's free-kick at the back post, but the linesman's flag was correctly raised for offside.
Much as was the case in the first half, England emerged from the dressing room brightly before suffering another blow. Wickham, introduced for Jason Lowe at the break, combined with Thomas Ince only for the Blackpool forward to shoot wide before Orjan Nyland did superbly to push away Henderson's powerful volley with one hand.
The Norwegians attacked with purpose, though, and extended their lead in some style. The impressive Pedersen strode past Dawson on the right and fired an inch-perfect cut-back into the feet of Eikrem, whose unstoppable shot rattled the underside of the crossbar on its way into the net.
Dawson converted from the spot after Semb Berge was penalized for holding the West Brom defender, but England created little thereafter in open play. Norway's progression to the semifinals will be all but secured if Italy beats Israel in the later kick-off but, ahead of the expiry of his contract at the end of the month, Pearce's future with the Young Lions now looks in serious doubt.
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- Sports & Recreation
- Stuart Pearce
- Fredrik Semb Berge
- Magnus Wolff Eikrem
- Craig Dawson
- Jo Inge Berget