Football: Hat-trick for Redknapp

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IT WAS Kevin Keegan's first match in charge of an England side, but two players from the Newcastle manager's former club, Liverpool, made the news as his charges came from behind to win this European Under-21 Championship qualifier here last night.

Jamie Redknapp scored a hat-trick but Robbie Fowler, who had been involved in the first two goals, was sent off for dissent late in the game.

The setting for Keegan's international managerial debut (in place of the temporarily unavailable Dave Sexton) was humble: an athletics stadium in a small town on the edge of the Styrian Alps.

The atmosphere was low-key, but that could not excuse the defensive laxity that allowed the Austrians a fourth-minute lead. Christian Kraiger's cross from the left found an unmarked Mario Haas, whose header gave Paul Gerrard no chance.

Fowler was always the spearhead as England battled their way back into the game. From a 24th-minute Steve Watson cross, the hungry-looking striker jabbed the ball against a post from point-blank range. Then two goals in two minutes from Redknapp turned the game around.

In the 38th minute, Redknapp found Fowler with a cross-field pass. He cut in from the left and let fly with a shot Mario Krassnitzer could not hold, and Redknapp was there to knock in the rebound.

The Austrian goalkeeper was similarly troubled by a shot from Chris Bart-Williams in England's next attack. Fowler lifted the loose ball toward's Redknapp's forehead, and his second goal was a formality.

The game seemed to be drifting towards a tame conclusion until the 88th minute, when Fowler made an impact again, but not one that he will be proud of. England were awarded a free-kick near goal but, unhappy about several rough tackles going unpunished, Fowler harangued the Russian referee, Andrei Boutenko. A yellow card and, within seconds, a red card ensued.

In injury time, England were awarded another free-kick on the edge of the area, and Redknapp curled a shot high into the net to complete his hat-trick.

'It was a classy captain's performance from Redknapp,' Keegan said. 'The hat-trick will make people sit up and take notice.' As for Fowler's dismissal, Keegan said: 'I'm still trying to work out the reason the ref gave for the red card, but my Russian is not too good.'

Austria Under-211

England Under-213