Fabio Capello would no doubt settle for a similar result from England's seniors in Paris tonight, but the country's next generation of players will probably view yesterday evening's friendly international as only a limited success. While Stuart Pearce's Under-21 team rarely looked in danger of losing an unbeaten record – if you discount a penalty shoot-out – that goes back three years, as an attacking force they posed only an occasional threat.
With England well on the way to qualification for the 2009 European Under-21 Championship, Pearce took the opportunity to have a look at some new talent. Three of his starters were making their debuts at this level, while three more newcomers came off the substitutes' bench.
Considering the team had had only one day together on the training ground, it was no surprise that their football rarely flowed. There was limited entertainment for the sell-out crowd of 28,178, a fact that was surely confirmed when a Mexican wave started to roll around the ground early in the second half.
Pearce said he was happy with his team's performance but admitted: "It was a difficult game for us. Poland weren't easy opposition. They're a good side and physically they're very strong. We didn't do enough to win the game. A draw was a fair result."
Of the England newcomers, none took their chance better than Jamie O'Hara, who has been enjoying a good season at Tottenham Hotspur. The 21-year-old midfielder immediately looked at home, went confidently in search of the ball and was always trying to make a telling pass. His keen eye for an opening gave Cameron Jerome and Luke Moore regular chances to run at the Polish defence, while his busy approach denied his opponents time and space.
O'Hara and Andrew Surman made a decent midfield partnership. The Southampton player has a touch of class about him and always seemed to have time on the ball, though he was also willing to dig in when necessary.
Jerome and Moore both threatened to open up the Polish defence in the first half, but all too often their final passes failed to find a red shirt. Adam Johnson, who made several weaving runs down the left, looked more likely to make a breakthrough and there were loud – but unsuccessful – appeals for a penalty when the Middlesbrough man went down under Adam Kokoszka's challenge. Manchester United's Frazier Campbell, currently on loan at Hull City, looked lively after coming on as a substitute midway through the second half and might have made a bigger difference if he had been on the pitch longer.
The England defence rarely looked in trouble and Stoke City's Ryan Shawcross and Coventry City's Daniel Fox could be satisfied with their debuts. Fox's stylish set-piece delivery added a useful dimension to his game, while Shawcross's last-ditch tackle on Dawid Janczyk ended Poland's most threatening attack of the first half. On this evidence, nevertheless, the current senior squad will hardly feel their places are under threat from their youthful understudies.
England Under-21 (4-4-2): Hart (Manchester City); Mancienne (Chelsea), Onuoha (Manchester City), Shawcross (Stoke), Fox (Coventry); Gardner (Aston Villa), O'Hara (Tottenham Hotspur), Surman (Southampton), Johnson (Middles-
brough); Jerome (Birmingham), Moore (Aston Villa). Substitutes used: Heaton (Manchester United) for Hart, h-t; Leadbitter (Sunderland) for Gardner h-t; Campbell (Manchester United) for Jerome, 66; Derbyshire (Blackburn) for Moore, 66; Dann (Coventry) for Shawcross, 66; Mattock (Leicester) for Surman, 88.
Poland Under-21 (4-4-2): Tyton (Roda JC); Rzezniczak (Legia Warsaw), Kokoszka (Wisla Krakow), Polczak (Cracovia Krakow), Kocot (Zaglebie Lubin); Kuklis (Widzew Lodz), Wilk (Korona Kielce), Glik (Real Madrid), Pawlowski (Zaglebie Lubin); Majewski (Groclin), Janczyk (CSKA Moscow). Substitutes used: Danch (Gornik Zabrze) for Wilk h-t; Jarka (Gornik Zabrze) for Kocot, 77; Lewandowski (Znicz Pruszkow) for Janczyk, 77.
Referee: K Blom (Netherlands).Reuse content