England U21s maintain unbeaten start
Published : 08 Sep 2009 18:28:00
England goalkeeper Scott Loach put in an inspired display as Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 side earned a creditable 1-1 draw against early pacesetters Greece in their European Championship Group Nine qualifier in Tripoli. Daniel Sturridge gave England an early lead after a confident start before his effort was cancelled out by Sotiris Ninis' deflected strike five minutes before half-time. Loach then made a string of fine saves to keep out a profligate Greek attack lead by Kostas Mitroglou and earn a point at the Asteras Tripolis Stadium. The result means England, beaten 4-0 by Germany in the 2009 finals in June, move up to second in the section - three points behind leaders Greece - having taken four points from their two matches having beaten Macedonia 2-1 last Friday with Portugal third with three points from their one match played. England began strongly with 17-year-old Jack Wilshere handed his first start, and the visitors should have been ahead after just three minutes when Sturridge's curling free-kick cracked off the left upright, with James Tomkins blazing the rebound over the crossbar. The visitors continued to press and they were rewarded with the opening goal two minutes later. Danny Rose was the architect, intercepting Vasilis Pliatsikas' wayward pass and then turning Kyriakos Papadopoulos before sliding in a low centre which Sturridge gleefully tapped home from close range. Greece enjoyed more of the game as the half wore on though, and they levelled five minutes before half-time through good fortune, Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs deflecting Ninis' speculative shot past a helpless Loach after 40 minutes. England could then have fallen 2-1 behind on the stroke of half-time, but Loach made a superb point-blank save from Dimitris Siovas' header. Rose wasted England's best chance of the second half, firing wide of the left upright after playing a neat one-two with Jack Rodwell.