England fall from grace

Greece Under-21 3 England Under-21 1
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The Independent Football

A match that was shaping up as a severe warning against complacency for England ahead of their World Cup qualifier in Athens deteriorated into a night of shame for Howard Wilkinson's Under-21 side. They lost their shape and, after the on-looking Sven Goran Eriksson had departed, their heads, finishing with nine men as Luke Young and John Terry were dismissed in stoppage time.

Greece, heading the European Under-21 Championship group nine table, are now five points above England. They coasted into a three-goal lead within an hour last night at which point Joe Cole led the plummet into indiscipline.

The West Ham United midfielder was cautioned for a show of petulance. Shola Ameobi and David Prutton soon followed suit. And after Young was dismissed for pushing, both assistant referees had to help disperse the 20-man melée that ensued. To round off the shambles, John Terry, the captain, followed up his own goal with a dreadful two-footed lunge that indubitably warranted a red card.

Wilkinson said: "Whatever the circumstances, they have got to learn to stay in control. Maybe they have got to learn the hard way." The Under-21s head coach, who replied that he will "absolutely" be staying on in charge, had to drag David Dunn away from an altercation with one of the Greeks after the match. "David was very upset at someone from the Greek bench who wanted to get involved. He wanted to do something about it and I told him the best thing he could do was get in the shower and go home. Maybe this was an example of people needing to learn through playing international football."

Previously unbeaten in this European Championship campaign, England may have been missing players of the potential of Owen Hargreaves, of Bayern Munich, and Manchester United's Luke Chadwick. But they still started with 10 Premiership-based players.

Fulham's Sean Davis and, to an extent, David Dunn, of Blackburn Rovers, escaped with some credit for their contributions. But England's heads fell once Dimitris Papadopoulos headed in Giorgos Kyriazis's centre in the 26th minute. Three minutes from half-time, Giorgis Vakouftsis stroked a loose ball into the net.

The horror story went up another level when a long cross into the penalty area was nonchalantly headed back by Terry only for the goalkeeper Stephen Bywater to allow the ball to roll under his body. Michael Carrick's sweetly-struck 20-yarder four minutes from time appeared to be the footnote to the night's disappointments. But worse was to come.

Greece (4-4-2): Kotsolis (Panathinaikos); Natos (Kalamata), Louboutes (Aris Salonika), Kiriazis (Agios) Tavlaridis (Irakles); Kyrgiakos (Irakles), Amanatidis (Groiter), Petrou (Egaleo), Theodoridis (Aris Salonika); Papadopoulos (Akratitos), Vakouftsis (Fiorentina). Substitutes: Salpigidis (Kavala) for Amanatidis 63; Berenanu (Ethnikos Asteras) for Tavlaridis 70; Anastasopoulos (PAOK) for Kotsolis 79.

England (4-1-2-1-2): Bywater (West Ham); Young (Tottenham), Terry (Chelsea), Upson (Arsenal), Naylor (Wolves); Davis (Fulham), Carrick (West Ham), Dunn (Blackburn), Cole (West Ham); Christie (Derby), Defoe (West Ham). Substitutes: Pennant (Arsenal) for Defoe 46, Ameobi (Newcastle United) for Christie 73; Prutton (Nottingham Forest) for Davis 75.

Referee: J Baskakov (Russia).

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