Sinclair's late show gives England victory

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The Independent Online
Latvia Under-21 0

England Under-21 1

Trevor Sinclair underlined his senior England ambitions by scoring a late winner for the Under-21 side in Riga yesterday. The Queen's Park Rangers winger struck after 80 minutes with his fifth international goal on his 12th Under-21 appearance, to leave Dave Sexton's unbeaten team leading their European Championship qualifying group.

Sinclair surged on to Andy Booth's header down, and although his initial chest control took him wide, he finished expertly from a tight angle. Yet it had seemed that England, who started the day two points clear of Portugal but having played a game more, were not to be rewarded for their efforts as Latvia kept them at bay.

Chances in the first half fell consistently to Sinclair's QPR team-mate, Kevin Gallen. One of the best saw Gallen pull the ball back for Neil Shipperley, but his side-foot from eight yards was blocked. The Rangers' striker then saw his well controlled first-time volley brilliantly saved at point-blank range by the Latvian goalkeeper.

Three minutes into the second half, Shipperley got on the end of Chris Bart-Williams' centre, but saw his header drop on to the top of the crossbar. Then Gallen's brilliant first touch allowed him to turn and flash a volley just wide of the near post.

Gallen was replaced by Booth, the Huddersfield striker, whose aerial strength led to Sinclair's goal. "There have only been a few other games where an England team have created as many chances as that," said Sexton. "But I thought it was going to be one of those games when the goal just wouldn't come."

Latvia Under-21: Kolinko; Isakovs, Lisjakovs, Lidaks, Dolgopolovs, Voskans (Iljins, 81), Rudenko, Bleidelis, Vucans, Semjonovs (Zverugo, 66), Pahars.

England Under-21: Gerrard; Watson, Gordon, Nethercott, Roberts, Unsworth, Butt, Gallen (Booth, 68), Shipperley, Bart-Williams, Sinclair.

Referee: B Benediks (Slovakia).

n Mark Kennedy, Liverpool's £2m teenager, crowned the a fine display by the Republic of Ireland's Under-21 side with a free-kick equaliser against Portugal, beaten finalists in the last European Championship, eight minutes from time at Richmond Park in Dublin.

It came as a 50th-minute strike from Portugal's Daniel Kenedy seemed certain to condemn the Irish youngsters, without a win at this level since May 1992, to yet another defeat in a qualifier.