Football: Platt helps England to right route: Taylor draws comfort at last as Flowers and Pallister prevent the Brazilians from enjoying an impromptu carnival

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ENGLAND recovered their pride in the RFK Kennedy stadium here yesterday with a sleeve-rolled performance rich in the spirit and never-say-die determination so conspicuously lacking in Oslo and Boston.

Graham Taylor has had to endure so much criticism and speculation about his future after those dire defeats by Norway and the United States that the samba drumbeats which are the Brazilians' constant companions must have sounded like tumbrils.

Instead, England produced an upbeat performance which will have left their manager reflecting on the vagaries of the funny old game. In successive matches he has presided over the worst result of his career and the most uplifting.

Taylor was speaking more in desperation than expectation when he talked of turning points amid the debris of Boston, but the lame-duck leader was full of running again last night, and looking for another restorative result against the Germans in Detroit on Saturday.

Few would begrudge him the respite for which he yearned after the desperate days of the last two weeks.

To his relief, the players at last rallied round to lift the pressure which has been threatening to bring him down. They took the lead, albeit against the run of play, against a team regarded by many as the best in the world before a sloppy equaliser, 14 minutes from time, cost them what would have been a famous victory.

David Platt, recovering from ankle trouble, was fit enough for only 45 minutes, but needed just two of those to score his 12th goal in 14 internationals. The captain was head and shoulders above the rest, in every sense, when he nodded England in front with his first touch after substituting for David Batty at half-time.

For once, Platt the Lionheart was not alone. There were courageous performances everywhere, from Tim Flowers's outstanding debut in goal through the bristling resolution of Gary Pallister at centre-half to the selfless, disciplined ferreting of Andy Sinton and Paul Ince in midfield.

The decision to blood a novice goalkeeper against such dangerous opposition raised an eyebrow or two, but Flowers responded to the challenge superbly, playing with nerveless composure and making saves of the highest order from Valdeir, Elivelton and Palhinha.

Brazil opened up with the confidence expected from a side who had just rattled in three against the world champions, but the tone was set by an inspirational second-minute intervention from Pallister, who dispossessed the charging Careca with a clean-as-a-whistle tackle which served to lift England.

Inevitably, the South Americans were much the more accomplished team, but this time England were in combative rather than wimpish mood and stout-hearted defence repelled even the most insidious infiltrations.

For all that, Brazil should have scored after seven minutes, when Rai side-footed weakly at Flowers close in after Careca's pass, from left to right, had plunged Pallister and Des Walker into after-you disarray.

For a long time it seemed England's defence must buckle under sheer weight of numbers. The Brazilians broke out with devastating speed, arriving in Flowers's penalty area with six or seven attackers to confront a hard-pressed back-four.

England's problems were exacerbated by the poverty of their own front-line. Ian Wright and Nigel Clough continue to fall well below the standards required at this level, and there was no get-out for England's defenders - no target man they could aim at and have the ball held up long enough to relieve the pressure.

Given that handicap and the sweltering heat, the draw was an even more creditable result.

The Brazilians enjoyed such a pronounced edge in the first half that England were unable to manage a single shot or header on target.

Economy had its reward in the second half when their only chance of any consequence brought them the lead. Platt's uncanny knack for popping up in the right place at the right time was again in evidence in the 47th minute, when he rose above the rest to meet Sinton's cross from the right eight yards out, from where he beat Taffarel with a twisting header into the goalkeeper's top left corner.

Captain Courageous had done his bit. Now it was Flowers's turn. The debutant goalkeeper had the most assiduous of minders in Pallister, but was still left alone to thwart Valdeir, Elivelton and Palhinha as the Brazilians came dancing back.

The equaliser they deserved arrived after 76 minutes, when Almir's corner from the left was headed on by Rai and Marcio Santos plunged in to score with a stooping header.

Taylor's verdict? 'It was a very good performance and a very good result.' Had it relieved the pressure he had been under, personally, after successive disappointing defeats? 'Not really, no.' It was the one thing he got wrong all day.

ENGLAND: Flowers (Southampton); Barrett (Aston Villa), Dorigo (Leeds United), Pallister (Manchester United), Walker (Sampdoria), Sharpe (Manchester United), Sinton (Queen's Park Rangers), Batty (Leeds United), Clough (Liverpool), Wright (Arsenal), Ince (Manchester United). Substitutes: Platt (Juventus) for Batty, h-t; Palmer (Sheffield Wednesday) for Ince, 67; Merson (Arsenal) for Clough, 83.

BRAZIL: Taffarel (Parma); Jorginho (Bayern Munich), Valber (Sao Paulo), Marcio Santos (Bordeaux), Nonato (Cruzeiro), Luisinho (Vasco da Gama), Dunga (Pescara), Rai (Sao Paulo), Valdeir (Bordeaux), Careca (Napoli), Elivelton (Sao Paulo). Substitutes: Marcio Cafu (Sao Paulo) for Nonato, 5; Palhinha (Sao Paulo) for Luisinho, 50; Almir (Santos) for Valdeir, 67.

Referee: H Dias (United States).

Lazio's Karlheinz Riedle scored a hat-trick of headers as Germany beat the United States 4-3 in the US Cup at Soldier Field, Chicago, last night.

Sugar hits back, Results, page 29

(Photograph omitted)

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