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1:00 AM UTC Feb 23, 2017
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Europa League round of 16 draw

Europa League

Perez deserves a first-team spot

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By ESPN Staff

Pearce: Defeat a learning curve

Stuart Pearce admitted England pushed the self-destruct button in Monday night's last-gasp European Under-21 Championship qualifying defeat in Belgium.

Pearce: 'We didn't have cutting edge'

• Under-21: Belgium 2-1 England

Pearce watched his Young Lions throw away not only a victory that would have put them within touching distance of a play-off place for the 2013 finals, but also a draw that would have maintained their stranglehold on Group Eight.

A defeat put the group firmly back in the balance, with Belgium climbing up to second place, four points behind England ahead of February's return meeting between the sides.

Pearce, who watched Martin Kelly give the visitors the lead before home substitutes Jens Naessens and Omar El Kaddouri turned the game on its head, told ESPN: "We got our noses in front with a decent goal and should have gone on from there and made it two or three-nil.

"We didn't, we were waiting for things to happen rather than making them happen ourselves and that's international football. We'll take it on the chin and move on.''

The manner of the defeat was eerily similar to this summer's defeat to Czech Republic that saw England crash out of the finals in Denmark. Pearce added: "We didn't have a cutting edge or real devilment about our play to win the game.

"I think it's a learning curve for our young players. Once you get into international football away from home, you take your point and you move on. We gifted them the winning goal, which is disappointing from our point of view, but we have to make sure we learn from this game and take it forward.

"We play Belgium again in February and have to reverse the result against them.''

Pearce admitted his side did not deserve to extend their 100% record in the group. He said: "We got bogged down a bit. Some of my key players that have the ability to go past one or two of theirs I don't think did it on the evening.

"We sat off and let them compete, they defended well behind the ball, defended very deep and made it very difficult.

"We learn by it, they are young players and the important thing is we go away from this and when we get them back to together again and have a look at this game, see where we can improve.

"They are very very disappointed - there's a real genuine group of players here now. All you can do is move on. We're on 12 points from five games now and have to make sure we win at least probably two more matches to get out of this group.''


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