Tom Huddlestone and Theo Walcott provided the goals as England’s Under-21s beat Wales.
International Under-21 Friendly
7.30pm, Thursday 15 May 2008
The Racecourse Ground, Wrexham FC
Tom Huddlestone and Theo Walcott provided the goals as England’s Under-21s beat Wales in Wrexham.
The scorers were part of a five-man group starting for Stuart Pearce’s side who will join up with the England senior squad next week, and gave the watching Fabio Capello a taste of what they have to offer.
Huddlestone opened the scoring from the penalty spot, coolly placing home, then Walcott’s pace, a constant spark for the Three Lions, cut Wales apart before he fired home five minutes later.
But the goals came against the run of play during a first half in which Wales looked the more potent. Their strike pairing of Ched Evans and Sam Vokes linking up well to ask questions of the England rearguard.
The first opening came when Evans broke clear inside the box and fired square to Vokes eight yards out. The Bournemouth striker’s connection was clean and crisp, Joe Hart managed to get the block in with his legs, but the ball cannoned back off Andrew Taylor. Fortunately for the Middlesbrough full-back, it trickled wide of the post.
Theo Walcott had a sight on goal himself moments later as the ball broke free following Adam Johnson’s shot-cum-cross. However, the Arsenal man’s drive was well blocked by the last-ditch lunge from Jack Collison.
It was the home side, though, who were looking the more dangerous, and in particular Evans who was giving captain David Wheater and Taylor a few problems. So it was a surprise when Neal Eardley brought Johnson down inside the box for a penalty after twenty minutes. Tom Huddlestone tucked away with ease into the bottom corner.
But Wales were not rattled and continued with the neat passing game that had served them well earlier. When David Edwards’ slide rule pass into the area and the feet of David Cotterill opened up another chance, the Wigan man made a good effort at curling it past Hart, but it also curled just past the post, too.
No sooner was Hart clearing the ball upfield, though, than Hennessey was picking it out of the net for a second time. A training ground corner from Huddlestone and Walcott sent the latter free and his pace was too much for the Welsh defence.
The run was similar to Johnson’s, but where the ‘Boro boy was fouled, Walcott shot, and a deflection helped the ball find a snug spot in the same corner Huddlestone had put his penalty.
Wales’ came close to pulling one back through an England defender. Taylor’s attempted clearance somehow looped up over Hart and bounced off the too of the bar for a corner.
Vokes wriggled free from Mancienne to lash a powerful strike goalward, but it was well dealt with by Hart and also connected with a Joe Jacobson cross from the left but his header was always going wide.
Gabby Agbonlahor came to life and saw his powerful left foot effort well saved by Hennessey after he cut in from the right, capitalising on the Welsh weakness.
Tom Huddlestone had a couple of goes after the change around, first with a side foot from outside the box and then a header from similar range, but both received the necessary attention from the Wolves keeper.
England began to take charge of the game and allow Wales little more than scraps, with the goalscorers playing lead roles. Huddlestone with his vision, Walcottt with his pace, while Johnson on the left showed flashes of brilliance.
Joe Lewis, making his debut as a second half replacement for Joe Hart, largely remained a spectator. The only occasion he was really forced to sweat was when Nicky Adams broke clear.
The Peterborough keeper was quick to react, tidying up bravely at the back, but took accidental knock to the head from Adams’ boot.
England’s Under-21s ended an unbeaten campaign on a high, and while most of the players can now turn their attention to the summer holiday, a small party will head to London next week to sample life with the seniors.
1 Wayne Hennessey, 2 Neal Eardley (15 Christian Ribeiro, 63), 3 Joe Jacobson (c), 4 Jack Collison, 5 Chris Gunter, 6 Lewin Nyatanga, 7 David Cotterill (16 Nicky Adams, 77), 8 David Edwards, 9 Sam Vokes (18 Simon Church, 63), 10 Ched Evans (20 Craig Davies, 77), 11 Shaun McDonald.
Subs not used 12 Grant Basey, 14 Mike Williams, 17 Mark Bradley, 19 Marc Williams, 21 Owain Fon Williams
Manager Brian Flynn
1 Joe Hart (13 Joe Lewis, 46), 2 Martin Cranie, 3 Andrew Taylor (16 Jamie O’Hara, 57), 4 Lee Cattermole, 5 Michael Mancienne, 6 David Wheater (c) (14 Scott Dann, 46), 7 Theo Walcott, 8 Tom Huddlestone, 9 Gabriel Agbonlahor (17 Dexter Blackstock, 57), 10 Grant Leadbitter (15 Fabrice Muamba, 72), 11 Adam Johnson (12 Ryan Shawcross, 86)
Coach Stuart Pearce
Referee Alan Black (Northern Ireland)
Assistants Paul Munn and Dan Steele (both Northern Ireland)
Fourth Official Lee Evans (Wales)