Football: Fowler treble cheers tyros: Inquisition fails as shame of Spain allows hosts to reign: Jon Culley reports from Bescot Stadium

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The Independent Online
England Under-18. . .5

Spain Under-18. . . .1

ENGLAND reached the final of the European Under-18 Championship after an extraordinary match in front of 8,565 spectators at Walsall last night, in which Spain had two players sent off and Liverpool's Robbie Fowler grabbed a hat-trick as the hosts scored three times in the last eight minutes.

The victory gave England a 100 per cent record in Group One and Turkey, the holders, will be their opponents at the City Ground, Nottingham, on Sunday after a 2-0 win over Portugal enabled them to top Group Two.

The Spaniards were expected to pose the biggest threat to England's progress, and their well- organised midfield controlled the play for much of the first half.

English faces brightened - eventually - with a goal in the 41st minute. Paul Scholes, sent on for his Manchester United colleague, Nicky Butt, moments earlier, created the opening with a shot which was deflected to Mark Tinkler, who produced an instinctive stab that lacked power but caught the Spanish goalkeeper off balance.

The Spaniards were reduced to 10 men when Javier Moreno Varela, a half-time substitute, was sent off after only three minutes on the field for his second bookable offence, a late and high challenge on Gary Neville, but they equalised in the 70th minute, Carlos Sierra weaving into the area from the left without a worthwhile challenge and drilling the ball home low to Chris Day's right.

However, Spain's eagerness to go forward then left them stretched at the back, and two minutes later fine play by Julian Joachim set up Fowler to restore England's lead.

Everything fell apart for Spain in the last eight minutes. Fowler extended England's lead to 3-1 from a direct free-kick, Spain lost Sierra to another red card, then Fowler completed his hat-trick and the substitute, Jamie Forrester, completed a rout with the Spanish defence in disarray.

ENGLAND: Day (Tottenham Hotspur); Neville (Manchester United), Sharp (Leeds United), Caskey (Tottenham), Casper (Manchester United), Campbell (Tottenham), Tinkler (Leeds), Butt (Manchester United), Joachim (Leicester City), Fowler (Liverpool), Gallen (Queen's Park Rangers). Substitutes: Scholes (Manchester United) for Butt, 38; Forrester (Leeds) for Gallen, 85.

SPAIN: Alonso Lopez (Real Valladolid); Moreno Venecia (Real Madrid), Gonzalez (Real Valladolid), Palacios (Osasuna), Garcia Leon (Real Madrid), Carrasco (Seville), Sierra (Real Madrid), Garcia Lara (Real Madrid), Medina (Valencia), Vales Illanes (Deportivo La Coruna), Vales Varela (Athletic Bilbao). Substitutes: Galvez (Mallorca) for Vales Varela, h-t; Moreno Varela (Barcelona) for Vales Illanes, h-t.

Referee: H-P Dellwing (Germany).

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