Football: Heskey leads England to glorious exit

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The Independent Online
England Under-21 4 Greece Under-21 2

4-4 on agg; Greece win on away goals

England staged a stirring comeback, but went out of the European Under- 21 Championship on the away-goals rule in a dramatic play-off second leg with Greece at Carrow Road last night.

Peter Taylor's side had looked down and out after two madcap first-half minutes left them trailing 2-1 on the evening and 4-1 on aggregate. But, inspired by two-goal Emile Heskey and the debutant Michael Owen, who must have improved his chances of selection for the World Cup finals, they almost succeeded in pulling the game out of the fire.

To their credit, however, Greece held on to set up a quarter-final with Germany. Nevertheless, Taylor and the watching England coach, Glenn Hoddle, will have been greatly encouraged by their performance.

Owen produced the first on-target effort in the 15th minute when Sotirios Limperopoulos did well to hold on to a 20-yard shot which dipped awkwardly. Limperopoulos had no chance six minutes later when Heskey headed home Carl Serrant's free-kick, but within five minutes England were behind.

First Pantelis Konstantinidis got behind Michael Duberry and shot past Richard Wright. Then Marcus Hall tried to turn a low, left-wing centre from Dermitzakias out for a corner but only beat his own keeper.

England were stunned, but gamely equalised in the 33rd minute, Heskey heading a second goal after a left-wing centre from the wily Frank Lampard.

England dominated the start of the second half without reward, but in the 60th minute Owen gave them a lifeline with his first Under-21 goal. A centre from the impressive Martin Bullock, who had replaced Duberry, was nodded on by Heskey and Owen shot home from close range.

With 11 minutes left Hall made amends for his own goal with a fierce shot that brought the sides level on aggregate. Taylor's side pushed eagerly for the winner, but the Greeks survived.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: Wright (Ipswich); Scimeca (Aston Villa), Serrant (Oldham) Duberry (Chelsea), Ferdinand (West Ham), Hall (Coventry), Carragher (Liverpool), Lampard (West Ham), Heskey (Leicester), Owen (Liverpool), Murray (QPR). Substitutes: Scowcroft (Ipswich) for Serrant, 49; Bullock (Barnsley) for Duberry, 58.

GREECE UNDER-21: S Limperopoulos, Mavrogenidis, Dermitzakias (Katsouris, 67), Alexopoulos (Basinas, 45), Antzas, Goumas, Karagounis (Koulakiotis, 55), Kiassos, Konstantinidis, N Limperopoulos, Stoltidis.

Referee: E Blareau (Belgium).