Portugal destroy England's hopes

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

England were eliminated from the European Championship in highly controversial circumstances against Portugal here last night.

David Platt's side were heading for a draw when Tottenham's Helder Postiga appeared to use his hand to steer Hugo Viana's free-kick beyond the stand-in goalkeeper, Lee Grant.

England are now unable to finish in the top two in Group Seven and make the play-offs, rendering their last game in Turkey next month meaningless.

In the warm-up, the Liverpool goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland, had succumbed to a groin problem. His loss was exacerbated when Grant was at fault for Portugal's opener.

In the fourth minute, Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo was brought down by Glen Johnson on the left edge of the area. Ricardo Quaresma curled the free-kick to the near post, and Grant helped it into his own net.

The Derby keeper did produce a couple of fine saves to deny Quaresma and Postiga, however. Portugal were creating the better chances but England managed to equalise nine minutes before the break.

Paul Konchesky lofted a free-kick into the area, Shola Ameobi flicked the ball on and Joey Barton's stabbed shot trickled home off the inside of the right-hand post.

England held sway in the second half with an aggressive display. After the goalkeeper, Jose Moreira, had smothered a low, long-range drive from David Prutton and Barton sliced a volley wide, Ameobi and Francis Jeffers, who was looking for a record 14th goal at Under-21 level, then combined superbly in the 51st minute. But Moreira was quickly down to a shot on the turn from Jeffers. Moreira then hung on to a drive from Johnson.

Jeffers allowed frustration to get the better of him as he was booked for a challenge on the keeper, and Platt then became involved in an altercation with his Portuguese counterpart, Jose Pratas Romão.

Platt, whose future as coach has come under scrutiny, would not be drawn into criticism of the referee, Athanassios Briakos, over Portugal's winning goal. Asked about the incident, he said: "When the referee sees the pictures I'm sure he will see what the rest of the crowd think. We haven't had the luck."

He added: "I think we had enough chances to win but everything seemed to hit the keeper."

ENGLAND UNDER-21 (4-4-2): Grant (Derby County); Jagielka (Sheffield United), Dawson (Nottingham Forest), Clarke (Everton), Konchesky (Charlton Athletic), Johnson (Chelsea), Prutton (Southampton), Barton (Manchester City), Barry (Aston Villa), Jeffers (Arsenal), Ameobi (Newcastle United). Substitute: Defoe (West Ham) for Prutton, 80.

PORTUGAL UNDER-21: Moreira, Joao Paulo, Ricardo Costa, Bruno Alves, Bosingwa, Tiago, Viana, Hugo Luz, Quaresma, Postiga, Ronaldo. Substitutes: Mario Sergio for Bosingwa, 80; Raul Meireles for Ronaldo, 84.

Referee: A Briakos (Greece).