England left hanging on by red card

England Under-21 2 Wales Under-21 2 (England win 5-4 on aggregate)

The England Under-21 team manager Stuart Pearce flew out to Belarus last night having overseen his youngsters' passage to the European Championship finals in Sweden next summer, but only after another eventful game against resilient opposition. Remarkably, the evening's events were even more exciting than last Friday's, when England finished 3-2 ahead. Wales, inspired by Arsenal's 17 year-old Aaron Ramsey, fell further behind before drawing level overall with two quick strikes, then conceded an unlucky own goal. England's Tom Huddlestone, having scored the first goal of the night, was sent off with 25 minutes to play, but his team-mates held out – just – to remain unbeaten under Pearce apart from the defeat on penalties in the semi-final of the 2007 tournament.

"A great advert for under-21 football and British football," the manager said, and a good crowd of 23,812, attracted by sensible pricing – £10 for adults, £5 for children – surely agreed. As in the first leg there were four goals in an opening half full of incident. In the 13th minute Ramsey began his eventful contribution to the proceedings by fouling Middlesbrough's Adam Johnson and Huddlestone drove a low free-kick round the wall and into the side of the net that the goalkeeper Owain Fon Williams was supposed to be guarding.

Wales responded with two goals in five minutes against a defence that had only conceded one in eight qualifying group matches. The first was magnificently struck by Ramsey on the half-volley from 25 yards, giving Joe Hart not a sniff of a chance. The Arsenal teenager then played Reading's Simon Church in behind England's captain Steven Taylor for a smart finish to level the aggregate at 4-4. "He can be as good as anyone in Europe," said the Welsh manager Brian Flynn of Ramsey.

Six minutes more, however, and England were back in front. Taylor met Jamie O'Hara's inswinging free-kick with a header at the far post that was not going in until it struck the unfortunate Sam Vokes's arm for an own goal. Fabrice Muamba was brought on and given the unrewarding task of controlling Ramsey, who began driving Wales forward again after Huddlestone was dismissed for sliding in on Darcy Blake as both players went to ground. A British referee would probably have settled for a yellow card but the Dutchman Kevin Blom produced a straight red. Now Huddlestone will be suspended for the first game of the finals.

Needing one more goal against 10 men to force extra-time, Wales came desperately close to it with six minutes left, Vokes driving against the inside of a post. Pearce has taken with him to Minsk Hart and David Wheater, who have been called up to gain experience of life with the senior squad – Gabriel Agbonlahor should also have been making the trip but he has been forced to pull out after picking up a hamstring injury – as well as a dramatic tale to tell Fabio Capello.

England (4-3-3): Hart (Man City); Wheater (Middlesbrough), Mancienne (Chelsea), S Taylor (Newcastle), O'Hara (Tottenham); Huddlestone (Tottenham), Cattermole (Wigan, Muamba (Bolton) 30), Noble (West Ham); Milner (Aston Villa) Agbonlahor (Aston Villa, Campbell (Tottenham) h-t), Johnson (Middlesbrough). Wales (4-3-1-2): Williams (Stockport); Eardley (Oldham), Blake (Cardiff), Jacobson (Bristol Rovers), Wiggins (Crystal Palace); King (Leicester, Bradley (Walsall) 60), Collison (West Ham), MacDonald (Swansea, Adams (Leicester) 84); Ramsey (Arsenal); Vokes (Wolves), Church (Reading). Referee: K Blom (Netherlands).

New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kellie Bright as Linda Carter and Danny Dyer as Mick Carter

EastEnders Christmas specials are known for their shouty, over-the-top soap drama but tonight the show has done itself proud thanks to Danny Dyer.

Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Sport
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy
tvCall the Midwife Christmas Special
Sport
Laura Trott and Jason Kenny are preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth with Tess Daly in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special
tvLouis Smith wins with 'Jingle Bells' quickstep on Strictly Come Dancing's Christmas Special
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there