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Winning start for Southgate

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06 Sep 2013 00:31:54

Winning start for Southgate

Gareth Southgate got off to a winning - if unspectacular - start to life at the England Under-21s helm with a 1-0 victory over Moldova.

A day after Football Association chairman Greg Dyke bemoaned the state of the national game, the Young Lions looked technically proficient but lacked a cutting edge as they kicked off their European Championship qualifying campaign.

Moldova were never going to be yardstick with which to measure serious success, but Southgate will be pleased by the way his side retained possession at a sparsely-filled Madejski Stadium.

In truth, it could and should have been more than 1-0.

Saido Berahino fired home the decisive goal after just 13 minutes but, despite peppering the Moldova goal throughout, England failed to add to that tally.

Wilfried Zaha, Berahino and Will Hughes all missed gilt-edged chances in a second half in which the absence of players like Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley - both with the senior team - was striking.

It was a frustrating performance from the home side but one that showed promise in their first competitive match since a 1-0 loss to Israel.

That result saw England return from Euro 2013 pointless and cost Stuart Pearce his job, despite having led the Under-21s to four successive championships.

While the performance will hardly have the rest of Europe quaking in their boots, it was certainly an improvement on the summer's display and something on which to build.

Southgate named three debutants for tonight's match, with Southampton duo Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse making their first appearances for the Under-21s.


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