Agbonlahor and Milner on mark
Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner fired England Under 21s to victory over their Bulgarian counterparts.
By Rob Parrish
Last Updated: 16/11/07 9:55pm
Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner fired England Under 21s to victory over their Bulgarian counterparts at stadium:mk.
The 2-0 victory extends the 100 per cent record of Stuart Pearce's side in Group 3 and they now have their sights firmly set on qualification for Euro 2009.
Pearce's men were well below par in the first half, but went ahead through Agbonlahor's neat header with the interval approaching, and improved after the break as Milner added a late second from the spot after the dangerous Theo Walcott has been felled.
After a drab opening 20 minutes, Lyubomir Bozinhov provided a real moment of quality when he received possession on the edge of the England box and unleashed a shot with the outside of his left foot which curled just wide of Joe Hart's post.
England responded and should have taken the lead when Craig Gardner's raking cross-field ball was flicked on by Steven Taylor and Matt Derbyshire, but David Wheater drove a close-range effort across the face of goal.
Bulgaria threatened again after some slack marking by the home side as Bozhinov's corner was allowed to bounce in the box and reached Nikolay Dimitrov at the far post but he drove over the bar.
Back came England, and Lee Cattermole played a one-two with Milner as he drove forward from midfield, but the Middlesbrough player could not keep his resulting shot down.
And Milner then created the opener in the 41st minute as he teased two defenders on the left flank before flighting the ball to the near post where Agbonlahor glanced home.
But Bulgaria almost levelled immediately when Bulgaria worked the ball to Valeri Domovchiyski and his low shot caused panic as it ricocheted between Joe Hart and Joe Mattock before Wheater eventually hacked clear.
Domovchiyski had another opportunity seconds later as he broke the offside trap, but totally fluffed his shot as he bore down on Hart's goal.
Theo Walcott missed a glorious chance to double England's lead after the break when he was played in by Milner, but his first touch was poor and his eventual shot was comfortably saved.
The Arsenal forward's blistering pace continued to cause problems and he raced clear down the left just after the hour mark, but was unable to find Agbonlahor with his ball into the box.
And Walcott showed superb close control with 18 minutes remaining as he received the ball in the box with his back to goal, and three defenders in close attendance but still managed to get in a shot which Nikolay Mihailov tipped over.
Agbonlahor limped out of the action in the closing stages after a heavy challenge, with Grant Leadbitter coming on in his place.
England made it two with eight minutes remaining as man-of-the-match Walcott broke into the box and was felled by Mihailov after evading the initial challenge of Ivan Bandalovski.
The Gunners youngster immediately seized the ball, and was less than impressed at being told to hand over duties to Milner, who drilled his shot into the bottom left corner.