England U21s blitz Republic
A brace from Mark Noble and a strike from James Milner secured a comprehensive victory for England Under 21s.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 16/10/07 10:02pm
A brace from Mark Noble and a strike from James Milner secured a comprehensive 3-0 victory for England Under 21s over Republic of Ireland Under 21s at Turner's Cross.
Stuart Pearce's men continued their 100 per cent start in their bid to reach the European Championship U21 finals in 2009, and stayed top of Group 3 after rivals Portugal secured a 2-1 win over Montenegro earlier in the day.
England started the brighter and gave Ireland an early warning when both Matt Derbyshire and Noble failed to take advantage of decent opportunities.
But it was the Republic who were the first to demonstrate some clever football when Anthony Stokes played a quick one-two with Adam Rooney. The Sunderland man might have gone down under a heavy challenge but instead he toed an effort into Joe Hart's chest.
On 10 minutes England broke the deadlock courtesy of a poor error from Darren Randolph. Andrew Taylor dug out a cross from the left, and the Irish stopper spilled the ball allowing Noble to loft his shot into an empty net.
It took England just six minutes to double their lead, and it was Noble on target once more for Pearce's side. Gabriel Agbonlahor capitalised on a slip in defence to surge down the left and cut-back for the West Ham midfielder, who dispatched expertly.
James Milner was then almost made to pay for a careless foul on the edge of the box. Stokes struck his free-kick low but the ball caught Nedum Onuoha on the way through and flicked out for a corner.
It was three goals in under 30 minutes for England when Milner's strike took a wicked deflection to leave the flat-footed Randolph with no chance.
Owen Garvan's threaded ball between the centre-backs saw Rooney through, but his shot was a nice height for Hart and the England keeper stretched to parry clear.
The Irish continued to push for a way back into the game and Rooney was involved once more, but his clever low effort was saved by Hart, and Pearce's side went in 3-0 up at the break.
Early in the second half Don Givens' side were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men when James O'Brien was only yellow-carded for a wild challenge on Milner.
Noble then came close to sealing a memorable hat-trick. Theo Walcott cushioned the ball into Noble's path, but his strike was somewhat telegraphed and Randolph claimed well.
On 72 minutes Stephen Quinn burst into the box and powered at goal but Hart reacted superbly to deny the Irishman.
Despite a valiant effort from Ireland a comeback was not to be, but Givens will take heart from the manner at which his side battled to create several decent opportunities.