Football: Flitcroft's flash of inspiration

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The Independent Online
France Under-21. .0

England Under-21. 1

ENGLAND'S troubled international game regained some self-respect here last night when the Under-21 side under the management of Lawrie McMenemy won the Toulon Tournament for the third time in four years, defeating the host nation with a goal by Manchester City's Garry Flitcroft that was good enough to have won an even better tournament than this.

Whatever fate awaits England's senior side, the long-term future seems in safe enough hands.

Flitcroft's goal will live long in the memory of those who saw it: a 30- yard strike which swerved viciously past Frederic Cado, in the French goal, in the 54th minute.

Both teams had arrived at the tournament's climax unbeaten and were obviously respectful of one another because of it, England all the more so after a second-minute jolt to their confidence, when Paul Gerrard, the Oldham goalkeeper, not for the first time in this tournament, was required to save their neck. Florin Maurice appeared to have judged his chip at a free-kick, following a foul by Neil Ardley on Steve Marlet, to perfection, but Gerrard pushed it on to the bar.

England never even went close to mounting a serious assault on the French goal as the opposition dominated the first half with their superior passing game. The second half started with another near thing, when Bernard Diomede sliced a shot wide, but after Flitcroft's goal in the 54th minute there was only one more fright for the English and then Gerrard stood firm to make a superb reaction save to a shot from Maurice from six yards.

FRANCE UNDER-21: Cado (Stade Rennais); Marlet (AS Red-Star), Thiam (Montpiellier), Moreau (St Etienne), Gauvin (Chamois Niort), Marquet (Marseille), Dieng (Caen), Terrier (Metz), Abou (Lyon), Maurice (Lyon), Diomede (Auxerr). Substitutes: Huard (Stade Rennais) for Terrier, 67; Brando (Toulon) for Abou, 61.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: Gerrard (Oldham Athletic); Ardley (Wimbledon), Small (Aston Villa), Awford (Portsmouth), Hall (Southampton), Sutton (Norwich City), Flitcroft (Manchester City), Sheron (Manchester City), Summerbee (Swindon Town), Redknapp (Liverpool), Anderton (Tottenham Hotspur). Substitutes: Whelan (Ipswich Town), Allen (QPR), Watson (Barnsley), Stuart (Bristol Rovers), Oakes (Luton Town).

Referee: H Dallas (Scotland).