Marcus Hall's goal after 72 minutes was enough to give England victory in this European Under-21 Championship match at Wycombe last night. A corner from substitute Jamie Carragher was flicked on by skipper Riccardo Scimeca to the Coventry City defender, who drove a close-range shot through a ruck of players.
However, the anticipated goal rush for England, the group leaders, failed to materialise as they struggled to break down Moldova, bottom of the group.
The England coach, Peter Taylor, was looking for greater effort in front of goal after his side had managed just five goals in the opening six group matches.
But they looked short of inspiration for most of the match as the Moldovans packed the midfield area.
The Chelsea wing-back Danny Granville had plenty of space on the left flank and put in a couple of teasing crosses but it was 13 minutes before an opening worthy of the name was created.
A left-wing centre from Hall was headed back by Bruce Dyer into the path of Stephen Hughes but the Arsenal midfielder screwed his left-footed volley wide from 15 yards.
Dyer, recalled to the squad because of injuries to Darren Eadie and Jamie Scowcroft, was then released down the left flank by Nigel Quashie.
But with new cap Danny Murphy well placed in the centre he blazed his shot high and wide after moving into the area.
Moldova were certainly no pushovers as they played some neat, tricky football and also threatened to embarrass the three-man England back-line with the ball over the top.
Gheorghe Stratulat curled a low shot inches wide and then the same player volleyed past the post after a mistake by Kieron Dyer.
England injected more urgency into their play towards the interval and Eughenie Hiuaruc saved a low effort from Hall.
The Moldovan keeper then clung on to a Lee Bowyer header at the far post following a centre from Kieron Dyer. But there was a distinct low-key feeling about the opening 45 minutes. Before the game a minute's silence was held for Diana, Princess of Wales.
The second half got underway in a similarly low-key fashion and Taylor quickly opted for a double substitution in bringing on pounds 3m Manchester City player Lee Bradbury and Sheffield United's Wayne Quinn in place of the ineffective Bowyer and Granville.
It was fully 20 minutes into the second period before either goalkeeper was called into action and then Wright comfortably held on to a low effort from Ruslan Barbaros.
ENGLAND UNDER-21: Wright (Ipswich), K Dyer (Ipswich), Granville (Chelsea), Duberry (Chelsea), Scimeca (Aston Villa), Hall (Coventry), Murphy (Liverpool), Quashie (QPR), B Dyer (Crystal Palace), Bowyer (Leeds), Hughes (Arsenal). Substitutes: Bradbury (Man City) for Bowyer, 58; Quinn (Sheffield Utd) for Granville, 58; Carragher (Liverpool) for Murphy, 70
MOLDOVA UNDER-21: Hiuaruc, Playton, Lungu, Gilca, Sosnovshei, Catinsus, Bursuc, Stratulat, Borets, Comledwoc, Barbaros. Substitutes: Berco for Comledwoc, 79; Arlet for Stratulat, 81; Soimv for Lungu, 84.
Referee: C B Larsen (Denmark).
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