Stuart Pearce insisted yesterday that England Under-21s' 2-0 friendly defeat in Germany on Tuesday was a worthwhile exercise, even though they were without many of the players likely to start next summer's Uefa Under-21 Championship finals.
The match in Wiesbaden was the first for Pearce's youngsters since they qualified for next summer's tournament, but as a warm-up game it could be argued to have been largely futile.
That is because senior call-ups and injuries left the England Under-21 manager having to hand six players their first starts. By the end of the game, 11 had made either their debuts or full debuts at this level.
But head coach Pearce felt the new faces would ultimately benefit, saying: "A lot of our players made debuts. If you asked the [Connor] Wickhams of this world, and the [Josh] McEachrans, that have got their first cap. [Kieran] Trippier had a solid game at right-back. You have to take the positives out of it and move on."
It was understandably the more established names who impressed in an otherwise disappointing display, during which the substitute England goalkeeper Jason Steele was sent off.
Pearce said: "I thought Ryan Bertrand played well. I thought Danny Rose slogged away well and I thought the spirit when we went down to 10 men was very good. I said to the players afterwards that if they show me that spirit then any coach is happy to work with players who show that spirit."
Tuesday's reverse followed last year's Uefa Under-21 Championship final defeat to Germany. It also ended England's five-year, 15-game unbeaten away record – outside tournaments – at this level. Germany, for their part, were fielding aside completely changed from that final, with all of the particpants having moved on.
Pearce had no complaints about the overall outcome. His depleted side initially fell 1-0 behind when the starting goalkeeper Scott Loach failed to keep out a speculative effort from Konstantin Rausch.
The game was effectively over in the 59th minute after Steele was sent off on his debut for bringing down Boris Vukcevic just 13 minutes after replacing Loach. Cenk Tosun converted the penalty past Henri Lansbury, who was forced to play the rest of the match as a makeshift goalkeeper.
Making his full debut, the Arsenal midfielder pulled off some more than competent saves to prevent Germany adding to their score.
"Henri put himself forward and I thought he was outstanding," Pearce said. "Everything that went to him he handled very well. We might have found another goalkeeper. I think it was one of those scenarios where a penalty will suffice for ourselves and the Germans. The game was probably finished when the ball hit the net from the penalty spot, but whether it was a penalty or not, I have no idea.
"As a spectacle for the fans, it spoilt the game. It might have been the right decision but it's irrelevant. It's one of those things that happens when you are a goalkeeper"
"The game hinged on the penalty situation and the player getting sent off," Pearce said. "We were disappointed with the first goal we conceded, but it was an interesting game. It was a good exercise for both teams and two good nations and eventually the best team won on the evening."