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banner Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 21:20 GMT
Vassell pegs back Dutch
Darius Vassell wheels away in delight after scoring England's equaliser
Vassell scored a superb bicycle kick on his debut
Holland 1-1 England

Darius Vassell celebrated his England debut with a spectacular strike to earn England a draw in Amsterdam.

The 21-year-old Aston Villa striker volleyed home David Beckham's cross on the hour to secure a result which Sven-Goran Eriksson's England thoroughly deserved.

Vassell was one of three uncapped players handed a starting place by Eriksson.

  Key moments
26 mins: Kluivert's deflected shot beats Martyn
33 mins: Gerrard shoots wide after neat one-two with Heskey
55 mins: Beckham's free-kick beaten away
60 mins: Vassell volleys past Van der Saar for spectacular equaliser
Wayne Bridge stepped in at left-back while Vassell and Michael Ricketts formed the nucleus of an unlikely three-pronged attack alongside Emile Heskey.

Three debutants would suggest a major experiment by the England coach. In fact, Eriksson's starting team was a relatively settled one.

The remaining eight starters can, barring injury, safely have their suits measured for Japan and may even be assured of starting England's World Cup match against Sweden.

That kind of stability afforded Bridge the confidence to step in and make an assured debut, though it was Vassell who caught the eye.

In his pace, the striker carried a secret weapon to which the Dutch offered little defence.

England were comfortable, and increasingly threatening as the game wore on.

But the biggest early danger to Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar came from his own defender, Michael Reiziger.

Ruud van Nistelrooy (left) and David Beckham
Man Utd team-mates Van Nistelrooy and Beckham battle it out
The Barcelona defender, under pressure from Heskey, chested Gary Neville's right-wing cross dangerously towards his keeper and was relieved to see the keeper scramble the ball round a post as Heskey closed in.

But England grew in confidence, defending efficiently throughout their 4-3-3 formation and breaking swiftly when the chance arose with the impressive Steven Gerrard pivotal.

The Dutch, despite oozing class throughout the side, rarely threatened.

And, when their breakthrough came midway through the first half, it was adorned with a huge slice of good fortune.

Sol Campbell struggled to deal with a high ball into the area, heading away at the second attempt under pressure from the menacing Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But his eventual clearance fell straight into the path of Patrick Kluivert, whose shot looped off the outstretched leg of the frantic Campbell and beyond the groping reach of a stranded Nigel Martyn.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst (left) and Darius Vassell
Van Bronckhorst comes under pressure from Vassell
England's response was creditably positive.

Four half-time changes, including a taste of the action for the increasingly-frustrated Kevin Phillips, heralded a concerted push for an equaliser.

It nearly came when Beckham's free-kick forced a smart save from Van der Sar, substitute Chris Powell volleying the rebound over the bar.

It nearly came when Phillips pressured Van der Sar into an error, only for the Dutch keeper to redeem himself with a point-blank save from Beckham on the follow-up.

But when it finally came, it was well worth waiting for.

Beckham, predictably, was involved and his accurate centre was greeted by a queue of England players, with Vassell at the front.

The Aston Villa striker did not need asking twice and spectacularly beat Van der Sar with an acrobatic right footed volley that flew into the top corner of the net.

Holland: Van der Sar, van Bronckhorst, Frank de Boer, Reiziger, Ricksen, Cocu, van Bommel, Ronald de Boer, Overmars, Kluivert, Van Nistelrooy. Subs: Westerveld, Melchiot, Boateng, Davids, Paauwe, Hasselbaink, Makaay, Sikora.

England: Martyn, Gary Neville, Campbell, Ferdinand, Bridge, Beckham, Gerrard, Scholes, Heskey, Vassell, Ricketts. Subs: James, Phil Neville, Powell, Southgate, Butt Lampard, Joe Cole, Phillips, Wright.

Referee: Laurent Duhamel (France).

BBC Sport's Ian Brown
"What a special strike Vassell's was"
England captain David Beckham
"This team should be at the World Cup finals"
England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson
"I was very pleased with the team tonight"
See also:

13 Feb 02 |  World Cup 2002
England player ratings
13 Feb 02 |  World Cup 2002
Vassell sparkles on debut
Other top World Cup 2002 stories:

Links to more World Cup 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


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