Jeffers lifts England with late winner

Germany Under-21 1 England Under-21 2
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The Independent Football

Frances Jeffers scored a dramatic injury-time winner here last night to boost England's hopes of qualifying for the 2002 European Championship finals. The Arsenal striker drilled home a low shot after he had run on to a pass from Fulham's Sean Davis to silence the home crowd.

There was only time for Germany to kick-off before the final whistle blew barely 15 seconds later.

Only seconds earlier it had been England's turn to be stunned when the German defender Christoph Metzelder had cancelled out Joe Cole's earlier effort.

It means that England are now two points behind Germany in Group Nine, from which the top two go into a play-off, and they have a game in hand.

But the real hero for England was Stuart Taylor, who pulled off a string of splendid saves in the face of constant pressure for long periods of the game.

The Arsenal keeper was in superb form as his side battled to stay on level terms in the first period and then to hold on to their lead in a frantic finale after Cole's opener.

England struggled to click in the centre of the park in the opening 45 minutes, but the performance of Taylor, some last-ditch defending and some luck meant they were always in the hunt.

This will also be an invaluable learning experience for new coach David Platt's side, which is still taking shape and only two players were in the starting line-up from the previous qualifying game in Greece in June.

A crowd of 18,000 – the highest for an Under-21 match in Germany – saw England come close to taking the lead in the ninth minute.

Cole found David Prutton in space and his powerful, low shot was parried at full stretch by Timo Hillderband. Cole also extended the German keeper after he had turned back inside.

Taylor needed two attempts to hold on to a free-kick from Tobias Willi, but he made a string of fine saves. He held on to a header from Tim Borowski and fingertipped over a fierce driven effort from Christian Rahn. Then on the stoke of half-time he got down well to his left to hold on to an effort from Borowski.

But Borowski was forced to limp out of the action in the second period after injuring himself when going close yet again and then Cole gave England the lead with an excellent goal. He exchanged passes with Davis, went past the challenge of Zepek before placing the ball wide of Hillderband into the corner of the net.

Taylor continued to perform heroics as the Germans searched frantically for a equaliser and he fingertipped over an effort from substitute Paul Freier.

GERMANY UNDER-21: Hillderband, Metzelder, Zepek, Borowski, Willi,Korzynietz, Rahn, Bruns, Ernst, Bierofka, Friedrich.

ENGLAND UNDER-21: Stuart Taylor, Wright, Bridge, Davis, King, Barry, Greening, Prutton, Vassell, J Cole, Chadwick.

Referee: T Mikulski (Poland).