Football: Norway display their class

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The Independent Online
England Under-21. .0

Norway Under-21. . 2

ENGLAND'S seniors received a rude portent for their opening World Cup qualifier against Norway at Wembley this evening when their Under-21s were defeated by their Scandinavian counterparts at Peterborough last night.

The pattern does not favour England, as Norway will go into tonight's game carrying exactly the same record as their youngsters did yesterday, two wins against San Marino and one over the Netherlands.

Lawrie McMenemy, the Under- 21 manager, knows that Graham Taylor, who was in the crowd last night, faces a similarly stiff examination this evening. 'They were mentally and physically a very tough team,' he said. 'Their first team will be equally resilient and well-organised. Our supporters should realise that it is not going to be an easy task at Wembley.'

In the 360 minutes of the sides' previous meetings, Norway's Under-21s had scored just one goal. They took just two minutes to double that tally last night.

Egil Ostenstad's cross from the right took on a far more damaging meaning for England once it had been deflected off referee Ceccarini Piero, and Frank Strandli, the visitors' outstanding player, struck with impressive authority.

England's fight-back was conducted without a recognised striker and with a system unrecognisable to the British game. The network of passes in midfield, especially between the cultured Chris Bart-Williams and Ray Parlour, was pretty enough, but the edge of the Norway penalty area proved an almost impenetrable barrier. 'We had players who have been getting through Premier League defences but they could not do it tonight,' McMenemy said.

Throw-ins in the Norway half became the signal for Ugo Ehiogu to charge upfield, but this caused a second, equally hurtful, deflection - from attention to defensive duties. Norway went further ahead after 67 minutes, Sander Solberg's corner eventually being hooked home by Alf Inge Haland.

England had by then brought on a striker, QPR's Bradley Allen, but the damage had been done, with the lack of firepower proving the home side's Peterborough defect.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: Walker; Hendon (both Tottenham Hotspur), Wright (Blackburn Rovers), Watson (Newcastle United), Ehiogu (Aston Villa), Awford (Portsmouth), Parlour (Arsenal), Bart-Williams (Sheffield Wednesday), McManaman (Liverpool), Clark (Newcastle United), Heaney (Arsenal). Substitutes: Sheron (Manchester City) for Watson (65), Allen (QPR) for Heaney (65).

NORWAY UNDER-21: Ulla (Alesund); Nilsen (Tromso), Ulfstein (Hodd), Haland (Bryne), Pedersen (Tromso), Sundgot (Molde), Solberg, Storvik (both Viking), Larsen (Odd), Strandli (Start), Ostenstad (Viking). Substitutes: Swift (Eik) for Larsen (61), Moen (Tromso) for Nilsen (81).

Referee: C Piero (Italy).

Nathan Blake hit a hat-trick to earn Wales their second successive victory in the European Under-21 championship in Larnaca yesterday. The Cardiff City striker led the way as the Welsh youngsters followed up their 3-2 win in Romania in May with another fine performance to beat Cyprus 4-2.