Adam Johnson’s strike earned a point after England came from a goal behind to remain top of Group Three.
Portugal 1-1 England
2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifier
9pm, Tuesday 20 November 2007
Adam Johnson’s second half strike earned a valuable point after England came from a goal behind to remain six points clear at the top of Group Three.
The result puts the Three Lions one step closer to the play-offs for Euro 2009, with two games remaining in next year. Stuart Pearce’s side could have won it, but after suffering a series of setbacks in the build up, will be happy to return home with their unbeaten record intact.
The day started badly for England when not only Garbriel Agbonlahor was ruled out with the knee injury sustained in Friday’s win over Bulgaria, but his strike partner Matt Derbyshire also pulled up in training, forcing Pearce to reshuffle his pack. Theo Walcott was moved inside to play as a lone-forward, while Fabrice Muamba strengthened the midfield and Adam Johnson came in on the left wing.
England’s luck continued to evade them when, inside the opening three minutes, Portugal were awarded a penalty. Vieirinha glided into the box past Craig Gardner on the left hand bye-line. Gardner stretched for the ball, but caught the Leixoes forward and the referee didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot. Vieirinha stepped up himself, and although Joe Hart guessed right, the low shot skidded beneath his dive to register the first goal against England this campaign.
Portugal almost went further in front twenty minutes later. What appeared to be a simple clearance for Hart on the right side of his area, his mis-kick fell kindly to the feet of Portugal skipper Joao Moutinho 30 yards out. With the goal gapping, the Sporting Lisbon youngster steadied himself before shooting goalwards, but Hart did well to recover and smother the ball before it crept over the line.
Despite the home side maintaining lots of possession, most of it was in the middle third as England kept them at a distant with the final ball often hoisted forward, making it meat and drink for Taylor and Wheater, while their shots from range failed to trouble Hart. It wasn’t all one-way traffic, though, as Pearce’s side had the better of the chances. Wheater came close on two occasions in the first half, both from Huddlestone corners from the right, but both efforts went just too high.
England were also looking to make use of the width provided on either side by James Milner and Adam Johnson. They saw plenty of the ball, but with only Walcott up front, he was often crowded out by the Portuguese rearguard, who got back in droves. When the impressive Johnson fed a neat through ball on the left catching them dozing, Walcott was on it like a shot.
He raced through on goal, but in a similar situation to his brace in Germany 13 months ago, the 18-year-old opened up his body to shoot with his right, only this time the keeper, Fulham’s Ricardo Batista, blocked well.
Yet another injury for England saw Steven Taylor, whose back problem was a concern leading up to the game, replaced by Michael Mancienne at the break, with Milner taking the armband.
Then finally, some good news. Three minutes into the second period, Joe Mattock’s long throw from the left found its way through to Johnson eight yards out and the Watford loanee made no mistake smashing home his first goal in what was his first start for the Under-21s.
The goal breathed new life into England as they began to impose themselves on the Portuguese and see more of the ball. Three efforts from Huddlestone in close succession should have put the Young Lions in front, but while Batista saved one, two drifted wide.
A bit of Walcott magic even had the home fans inside the Estadio Municipal chanting “Theo, Theo”, his reputation obviously preceding him. Turning on the ball inside Portugal territory, he attacked down the left with pace, before cutting in past two defenders and shooting with his right. Batista did well to reach down with a low dive and tip the ball away for a corner.
Another run, this time down the middle as he managed to keep on his feet after close attention from two defenders, opened up a chance for Milner, but his shot-cum-cross evaded post and Walcott looking for the return.
Seconds later, another low cross from the Newcastle winger on his 35th cap, flew across the goalmouth and Johnson’s slide was agonisingly close to poking home a second.
Portugal rarely threatened in the second period and any questions they did pose, were answered well by Mancienne and Wheater. Moutinho’s volley five minutes left looked to be going wide but Gardner made sure it was safe, hooking away from goal, before Tiago Targino also had a volley go close, but it would have been harsh on England.
Maybe Portugal will feel they are the ones lucky to escape with a point.
1 Ricardo Batista, 3 Nuno André Coelho, 5 Antunes, 15 Gonçalo Brandão, 13 Vasco Fernandes, 6 Paulo Machado, 8 Pelé (18 Celestino, 66), 10 João Moutinho (c), 7 Vieirinha (14 Bruno Pereirinha, 77), 9 João Moreira (20 Tiago Targino, 46), 19 Carlos Saleiro
Subs not used 12 Rui Patrício, 2 Stelvio Cruz, 4 Bruno Pinheiro, 11 Hélder Barbosa
Coach Rui Cacador
Goals: Vieirinha (pen) 3
1 Joe Hart, 2 Craig Gardner, 3 Joe Mattock, 4 Lee Cattermole, 5 Steven Taylor (c) (14 Michael Mancienne, 46), 6 David Wheater, 7 James Milner, 8 Tom Huddlestone, 9 Adam Johnson, 10 Fabrice Muamba, 11 Theo Walcott
Subs not used 12 Matt Connolly, 13 Ben Alnwick, 15 Grant Leadbitter, 16 Andrew Surman, 17 Richard Stearman, 18 Ishmael Miller
Coach Stuart Pearce
Goals: Johnson 49
Bookings S Taylor 13; Muamba 37, Walcott 81
TheFA.com Man of the Match Adam Johnson
Officials (all Hungary)
Referee Istvan Vad
Assistants Peter Hegyi and Peter Berettyán
Fourth official Roland Veizer