Young England edge Wales
Sunday, 12 October 2008

Pearce's men take control with 3-2 win

Sky Sports

England Under 21s sealed a thrilling 3-2 victory over Wales in the first leg of their European Championship play-off.

Roared on by a good crowd at Cardiff's Ninian Park, Wales posed plenty of problems for an England side on a long unbeaten run.
 
Simon Church scored twice for the home team while David Wheater, Adam Johnson and Gabriel Agbonlahor found the target for England on a night of fine attacking play.
 
Wales started brightly and took the lead in the 13th minute when Michael Mancienne's clearance cannoned into Steven Taylor and presented Church with the opportunity to slot coolly past Joe Hart.
 
Owain Fon Williams then denied Agbonlahor at the other end after 19 minutes but England equalised from the resultant corner as Wheater rose to powerfully head home Jamie O'Hara's deep cross.
 
England began to take control of the contest and nearly went ahead when Agbonlahor crashed a powerful effort against the crossbar from 25 yards.
 
Stuart Pearce's men did not have to wait long before they struck again though as Middlesbrough's Johnson latched onto a Mark Noble pass and cut inside Neal Eardley on 35 minutes before curling a exquisite shot into the bottom corner.
Assured
 
There was more drama to come before the interval as the impressive Aaron Ramsey played in Church and the Reading man found space to level for Wales with another assured finish.
 
There was less goalmouth action in the second half as England opted for a more patient approach and began to dominate possession once more.
 
They were rewarded in the 61st minute when Noble drove a low cross into the box and Agbonlahor netted with an audacious flick.
 
Wales pushed forward in pursuit of an equaliser and Shaun MacDonald forced Joe Hart into action with a ferocious effort from distance, while Jack Collison only missed by inches with a swerving piledriver.
 
England also came close to extending their advantage in a frantic finale and Fon Williams had to spring to his left to pull off an acrobatic save from Noble.
 
The game ended with the tie still delicately poised ahead of Tuesday's return leg at Villa Park, although England will be confident of finishing the job and securing their place in next summer's tournament in Sweden.

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