England miss chance to start tournament in style

England Under-20 0 China Under-20 0
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England will probably have to count the 30th Toulon Festival as a learning experience after last night's disappointing stalemate with China.

A number of withdrawals from Martin Hunter's young party over the last week, mostly caused by David Platt's plans for the forthcoming European Under-21 Championships, did not help England's cause.

While they hustled well in the tournament's opening game, England failed to hit their best form against the team thought to be the weakest in Group A. Portugal, Poland and Brazil, who displayed a mesmerising array of skills in defeating the Poles 4-0 yesterday, are the others in the group.

England, four times winners of this tournament, created a number of good chances and Rhys Evans showed why he is too good to be the fourth-choice goalkeeper at Chelsea.

China included a number of players with aspirations of playing in the Athens Olympics in 2004 and took the game to England from the start, Xinxin Wang shooting low and wide of the left post in the first minute.

Chelsea's Leon Knight, whose loan spell at Huddersfield inspired the Terriers into the Second Division play-offs, posed problems with his pace down the right. But the Chinese continued to threaten and Evans had to turn Lin Zhou's free-kick around the post for a corner.

Tao Yu drew another stop from the keeper after the half-hour. Evans was furious after the front man had run almost unchallenged from midfield.

After the restart, England should have scored but Manchester United's Jimmy Davis shot wide at the near post from Chris Armstrong's cross.

Davis and Danny Webber then brought their presence to bear, with Davis playing a floating role behind Webber, who had England's next chance. Knight had seen one cross cause terror in the Chinese defence just before he delivered another whipped ball from the right. Webber caught it on the volley but sent his shot straight at the goalkeeper Jun Yang.

Davis chipped a free-kick against the bar in the final minute and Knight sent a header wide in injury time to give further evidence of England's second-half improvements.