Football: Flitcroft hits back with a volley

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Netherlands Under-21. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

England Under-21. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1

GARRY FLITCROFT needed only eight minutes to reply to the Netherland's opening goal and salvage a draw for England in their European Under-21 Championship Group Two tie in Utrecht last night. The Manchester City midfielder scored with a 62nd-minute volley following a corner to cancel out John Mutsaers' well-struck shot.

England began with Portmouth's Andy Awford employed as a sweeper in a five-man back line marking two forwards. The result was a free reign in midfield for Roberto Verhagen. It was 15 minutes before Awford moved forward to mark the dangerous Dutchman.

Darren Anderton, the Tottenham winger, failed a fitness test on a groin problem, so his Queen's Park Rangers counterpart, Trevor Sinclair, came in for his Under-21 debut. Sinclair, who cost Rangers pounds 750,000 from Blackpool, looked one of England's liveliest players in a shambles of a first half as they struggled in driving rain. England failed to muster a single dangerous shot, while the goalkeeper David Watson, who was also making his debut, was tested only once when he plunged left to turn a Huub Loeffen shot around the post.

A mis-kick by Flitcroft's City team-mate, Mike Sheron, gave Peter Hoekstra a clear run at goal but he shot wide. It was a brief reprieve for England who fell behind in the 54th minute when Mutsaers exchanged passes with Rene Klomp before shooting home.

Four minutes later Watson made a superb tip-over from Jean-Paul van Gastel, his save inspiring England to hit back. Neal Ardley's corner was mis-punched by the goalkeeper Oscar Moens and Steve Sutton knocked the ball down for Flitcroft to crash home.

The Republic of Ireland Under- 21 side finished bottom of Group Three after losing 2-0 to Spain in Drogheda. The talented 19-year-old Julien Guerrero sparked the win that looks likely to take Spain to the finals with a slick 38th-minute goal. Oscar got the second with a low 25- yard shot in the 63rd minute.

NETHERLANDS UNDER-21: Moens; Verhagen, Van Hoogdalem, Van Gastel, Van de Looi, Buskermolen, Klomp (Gesthuizen, 77), Loeffen (Rorije, 73), Pahlplatz, Mutsaers, Hoekstra.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: D Watson (Barnsley); Ardley (Wimbledon), Minto (Charlton Athletic), Sutton (Norwich City), Ehiogu (Aston Villa), Awford (Portsmouth), Flitcroft, Sheron (both Manchester City), Cole, Clark (both Newcastle United), Sinclair (Queen's Park Rangers). Substitute: Redknapp (Liverpool) for Clark, 61.

Referee: L Gadosi (RCS).