England struggle to contain Switzerland

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The Independent Online
England Under-21 0 Switzerland Under-21 0

England, fielding only four of the side who beat Italy in the European Under-21 Championship in February, were short of invention and could easily have lost this friendly at the County Ground, Swindon to a Swiss side inspired by Patrick De Napoli last night.

Darren Huckerby came close to breaking the deadlock on his full England Under-21 debut, producing England's only worthwhile effort at goal in a low key opening 45 minutes.

Coventry's Huckerby, a pounds 1m signing from Newcastle this season, seized on a mistake by Swiss defender Django Malacarne and let fly with a blistering 15-yard drive which Iven Benito did well to turn around the post.

England, watched by the national coach, Glenn Hoddle, did not look capable of finding a way through the Swiss defence even though they enjoyed most of the early possession.

After a lacklustre opening 20 minutes, it was the Swiss who started to pose problems down the right flank through De Napoli. He was too ambitious when he tried to chip Chris Day, from 40 yards, but he then forced the Crystal Palace goalkeeper to tip his rising shot past a post. De Napoli then robbed the shaky looking Matt Carbon and squared the ball into the path of Hakan Yakin, but from 15 yards he put his shot wide.

Carbon was replaced at half-time by Lee Briscoe and the Sheffield Wednesday player immediately made his presence felt by blocking a fierce overhead effort from De Napoli. However, England suffered a setback in the 54th minute when Rio Ferdinand had to be substituted with an ankle problem picked up when blocking a shot from Yakin, who also headed over a 65th- minute cross by Robert Huber.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: Day (Crystal Palace); Holland (Birmingham), Hall (Coventry), Broomes (Blackburn), Ferdinand (West Ham), Carbon (Derby), Carragher (Liverpool), Hughes (Arsenal), Huckerby (Coventry), Humphreys (Sheff Wed), Bowyer (Leeds). Substitutes: Briscoe (Sheff Wed) for Carbon, h-t; Morris (Chelsea) for Ferdinand, 55; Roberts (Middlesbrough) for Day, 63; Bridges (Sunderland) for Humphreys, 67; Moore (Nottm Forest) for Huckerby, 85.

SWITZERLAND UNDER-21: Benito; Huber, Balmer (Fiechter, 72), Malacarne, Smiljanic, Pizzinat, Celestini, Muller (Kehrli, 88), Yakin (Senn, 88), De Napoli, Sutter (Thurre, 69).

Referee: J McDermott (Irl).

n Scotland's hopes of reaching in the later stages of the European Under- 21 Championships again suffered a serious blow when they were beaten 2-1 by Austria at Motherwell last night. Scotland reached the semi-finals in Barcelona last summer.

n Two goals by Mark Kennedy

helped the Republic of Ireland to a 4-0 victory over Macedonia in their European Under-21 championship qualifier in Kavadarci yesterday.