Tempers flare as England are held

Azerbaijan Under-21 0 England Under-21 0
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The Independent Online

Peter Taylor, the England Under-21 coach, felt that Nigel Reo-Coker was harshly sent off as his side were held to a goalless draw and deprived of their 100 per cent record in the Uefa Under-21 Championship against Azerbaijan here yesterday.

Peter Taylor, the England Under-21 coach, felt that Nigel Reo-Coker was harshly sent off as his side were held to a goalless draw and deprived of their 100 per cent record in the Uefa Under-21 Championship against Azerbaijan here yesterday.

The West Ham player reacted to a crude tackle by the Azerbaijan midfielder Elnur Abdullayev in the 77th minute. It sparked a mass flare-up before the Danish referee, Emil Laursen, handed out red cards to Reo-Coker and Abdullayev. Reo-Coker now faces a three-match ban for violent conduct, ruling him out of action at this level until next September.

"I think Abdullayev stamped on Nigel's calf and he may have reacted a little bit aggressively," Taylor said. "But I don't think he has kicked their player, so I think it is a little bit harsh that he has been sent off."

A bobbly, bone-hard pitch and searing heat made it extremely difficult to play any constructive football. Yet England still had enough opportunities to have secured a fourth successive victory in their qualifying group.

Reo-Coker went closest in the first half with a downward header. England dominated most of the second period and after the Reo-Coker-Abdullayev fracas came near to snatching victory in injury time when both Jermaine Pennant and Glen Johnson had shots cleared off the line.

AZERBAIJAN: Majidov; Allahverdiyev, Namazov, Maharramov, Abdullayev, J Mammadov, Akhtyamov, R Abbasov, E Abbasov, Muradov, Amirjanovic. Substitutes not used: Arhayev, Abdurahmanov, Karimov, Agarishiyev, E Mammadov, Aliyev, Shahbazov.

ENGLAND: Carson (Leeds); Johnson (Chelsea), Hunt (Bolton), Davenport (Tottenham), Harding (Brighton), Pennant (Arsenal), O'Neil (Portsmouth), Reo-Coker (West Ham), Whittingham (Aston Villa), Stead (Blackburn), Milner (Newcastle). Substitutes: Downing (Middlesbrough) 46, for O'Neil; Kilgallon (Leeds) 70, for Davenport.

Referee: E Laursen (Denmark).

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