16.10.2007 at 19:45 Turners Cross
Referee: Andrea De Marco (ITA)
Mark Noble, 10,17 mins
James Milner 26 mins
Republic of Ireland U21 0 - 3 England U21
Mark Noble took advantage of confusion in Irelands defence to score two goals in the opening seventeen minutes of the UEFA U21 Championship tie at Turners Cross tonight. They went on to comfortably win the game 3-0 and maintain their winning run in the Championship with four wins from four matches.
England carried too much fire-power in attack for an Irish defence that started very nervously. They were struggling to cope with the pace of Theo Walcott, James Milner and powerful centre-forward Gabriel Agbonlahor and they surrendered soft goals as a result.
Ireland played neat constructive football but they suffered hugely in the physical stakes and this was critical. England had the power to ease Irish players off the ball in the danger areas and that was never more apparent than in the first goal.
England attacked on the left wing and when they won a throw-in by the corner flag, left-back Andrew Taylor had room to swing the ball into a crowded goalmouth in the 10th minute.
Goalkeeper Darren Randolph moved to make a routine catch but when Matt Derbyshire challenged the goalkeeper was unable to make a firm contact and the ball carried to the edge of the penalty area where Mark Noble calmly lobbed it back over Randolphs head.
England split the Irish defence in the 17th minute. A long clearance from goalkeeper Joe Hart was headed on by James Milner to Gabriel Agbonlahor. He cut in from the left and pulled the ball back for Noble to turn it powerfully into the net with his instep from 16 yards.
Ireland enjoyed a lot of possession in the opening half-hour and played some nice football. The defence, however, could not cope with a quickfire England attack who looked capable of scoring every time they got the ball.
The corner count at half-time was 8-2 in Irelands favour and this gave an indication of how much attacking Ireland did. But always they ran up against a strong England defence and their scoring attempts were always delivered under pressure.
England were much more effective and they scored a third in the 26th minute. Andrew Taylor came forward on the left to find the powerful Gabriel Agbonlahor on the left of the penalty area.
He pulled the ball back again superbly for James Milner to strike a shot from the edge of the penalty area that took a deflection off Darren O Dea to leave goalkeeper Randolph helpless.
Ireland could not turn their possession or their good football to account. Too often they were out-muscled by a powerful England team when they penetrated to the danger area.
Anthony Stokes had a free from 19 yards deflected outside by the wall of defenders in the 21st minute after Billy Clarke had been fouled by James Milner. Irelands claims that the foul had taken place inside the penalty area were unsuccessful.
Earlier Adam Rooney had exchanged passes with Stokes and drove into the six yards box but under the challenge of three defenders he could not get sufficient strength into his shot and goalkeeper Joe Hart saved.
Billy Clarke was very effective on Irelands left wing and when he took a pass from Rooney to rip his shot across the six yards box in the 39th minute, Stokes failed to make contact at the near post when a goal seemed certain.
Ireland were almost in again in the 42nd minute. Stephen O Halloran came forward to swap passes with Stokes and turn the ball back for Rooney to shoot powerfully goalwards only to see the ball take a deflection and fly outside for a corner.
Owen Garvan lost a glorious chance for Ireland in the 67th minute when he turned a cross from Jim O Brien over the bar from six yards in the 67th minute and goalkeeper Joe Hart produced a magnificent save to deny Stephen Quinn from 12 yards in the 72nd minute as Ireland improved in the second half.
England are now in a very strong position in the qualifying group with maximum points from four matches, with nine goals scored and none conceded.
Interested spectators at the game were Irelands former manager, Mick McCarthy, now manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers, Paul Simpson, manager of Preston, and Roy Keane, manager Sunderland.
Republic of Ireland U21; Randolph (Charlton Athletic); Nolan (Blackburn Rovers, O’Dea (Celtic), Keogh (Huddersfield Town), O’Halloran (Aston Villa); O’Brien (Celtic), Garvan (Ipswich Town), Stephen Quinn (Sheffield United); Anthony Stokes (Sunderland), Rooney (Chesterfield), Clarke (Ipswich Town). Sub: Powell (Bohemians) for Rooney 66 mins.
England U21: Hart (Manchester City); Cranie (QPR), Steven Taylor (Newcastle United), Onuoha (Manchester City), Andrew Taylor (Middlesbrough); Walcott (Arsenal), Noble (West Ham Utd), Huddlestone (Tottenham Hotspur), Milner (Newcastle Utd); Derbyshire (Blackburn Rovers), Agbonlahor (Aston Villa). Subs: Moore (Aston Villa) for Derbyshire 66 mins; Johnston (Watford) for Agbonlahor 75 mins; Wheater (Middlesbrough) for Onuoha 77 mins.
England manager Stuart Pearce said that while the scoreline told one story, it would be a mistake to think that England did not have a really tough game.
“I was always delighted with the performance to be honest with you” he said, “whenever you take to the field in Ireland with the white shirt with the three lions on it you know you are in for a stern test.
“I think we matched the Republic in effort, in endeavour and we had the cutting edge in our side to take the chances when they came. In 25 to 30 minutes we’re three-nil up and for any manager you’d be delighted with that but you know one thing for sure, the Irish boys are never going to give up, they were going to keep coming at you.
“We had one or two scary moments, we had to defend well at times but I think from my point of view as manager of this team I think they were sensational tonight and I’m very pleased with the performance and the result.”
He added: “I don’t think it was easy, we took our chances when they arose. We caused the Irish defence one or two problems with our incisive play, our movement and whatever and I think we probably created our own good fortune.
“Certainly in that first 30 minutes I think there were enough chances at both ends, I don’t think it was one-way traffic and from my point of view I was very pleased with the way we took the chances and probably made the game a little bit easier for ourselves."
Several of the Irish players had reason to be delighted with their performances – midfielders Owen Garvan and Stephen Quinn. Anthony Stokes and Billy Clarke up front were always a source of problems for the English but the physical strength of the English, their impressive physique gave them a distinct edge.
Said Don Givens: “We were beaten three-nil but nobody who was at the game will say we got a battering, we didn’t get a battering. There’s nothing I can say in criticism of those players tonight, they were absolutely magnificent..
“If you weren’t at the game and didn’t watch it on Sky and you saw the scoreline you might say we got hammered at home … we didn’t get hammered at home.
“We’ve lost three-nil but I’m probably as proud of the boys as I’ve ever been after any match.
“Our defeat was down to individual errors … for their first goal the goalkeeper flaps at it, that’s a goal. The second one Richard Keogh misses a tackle out wide and they finished it well after that, no two ways about it, and the third one was a deflection.
“Apart from that … I don’t know how anybody else feels but sitting where I was, we were the better team.”