Inspired Loach helps England to clinch away point

Greece U21 1 England U21 1
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The Independent Football

England goalkeeper Scott Loach put in an inspired display as Stuart Pearce's side earned a creditable draw against early pacesetters Greece in their European Championship Group Nine qualifier in Tripoli, near Sparta, last night.

Daniel Sturridge gave England an early lead after a confident start before his effort was cancelled out by Sotiris Ninis' deflected strike five minutes before half-time.

Loach then made a string of fine saves to keep out a profligate Greek attack lead by Kostas Mitroglou and earn a point.

The result means England, beaten 4-0 by Germany in the 2009 finals in June, are second in the section – three points behind leaders Greece – with four points from two matches, having beaten Macedonia 2-1 last Friday.

England began strongly, with 17-year-old Jack Wilshere handed his first start, and were rewarded with the opening goal five minutes in. Danny Rose intercepted Vasilis Pliatsikas' pass and turned Kyriakos Papadopoulos before sliding in a low centre which Sturridge gleefully tapped home.

The hosts enjoyed more of the game as the half wore on though, and they levelled five minutes before half-time when Arsenal's Kieran Gibbs deflected Ninis' shot past Loach after 40 minutes.

Mitroglou should have won the match with two minutes to go when Loach was finally beaten. He rounded the keeper – but hit the side netting.

Greece U21 Lamprou, Agryopoulos, Boukouvalas, Papastathopoulos, Siovas, Pliatsikos, Ninis, Dimoutsos (Siakkas, 76), Mitroglou (Pavlis, 90), Taxtsidis (Rizogiannis, 57), Koutsianikoulis. Substitutes not used: Stratilatis, Argyriou, Papazoglou, Giantsis.

England U21 Loach, Naughton, Gibbs, Tomkins, Mancienne, Muamba, Wilshere, Rodwell (Addison, 57), Rose, Cleverley, Sturridge (Welbeck, 28; Sears, 75). Substitutes not used: Fielding, Smalling, Cork, Stanislas.

Referee: M Bergonzi (Italy).