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  Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 21:45 GMT
England U21s draw with Italy
Jermain Defoe and Enzo Maresca in action
Defoe battles for the ball with Italy's Maresca
England U-21 1-1 Italy U-21
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The Under-21 teams of England and Italy battled out an entertaining 1-1 draw at Valley Parade in Bradford on Tuesday night.

It was a game which paid homage to the old adage of a game of two halves with Italy on top in the first and the English well in command following the break.

Massimo Maccarone had bagged an excellent opening goal for the Italians after 15 minutes when cooly slipping the ball past Leeds' Paul Robinson.

  Key Moments
15 mins: Maccarone slides home
31 mins: Robinson pushes Bonazzoli's shot onto post
59 mins: Barry slots equaliser
71 mins: Crouch goes closest to winner

England were then lucky to keep the scoreline down to just a goal deficit before captain Gareth Barry hit a 59th minute equaliser.

David Platt's side had most of the possession which followed, but could not find a winner against the reigning European champions.

England Under-21 coach Platt handed first caps to Aston Villa defender Jlloyd Samuel and Manchester City midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips.

Wright-Phillips, so impressive for City this year, had a quiet night in front of his adopted father Ian.

The Italians should have taken the lead as early as the sixth minute after carving open the England defence with ease.

Marco Marchionni slipped the ball inside skipper Barry and Maccarone collected.

Italy's top marksman at this level Maccarone wastefully slid the ball past the left upright with only Robinson to beat.

The pair did combine nine minutes later in much the same fashion, and this time the Serie B striker Maccarone supplied the virtuoso finish.

It was a virtual carbon copy of the initial threat, but this time English debutant Samuel slipped at a vital time and Maccarone chipped over Robinson.

After 19 minutes, England nearly equalised. A Matthew Etherington free-kick was flicked on and centre-back Zat Knight's ambitious overhead kick sailed over the crossbar from six yards.

Stephen Wright and Emiliano Bonazzoli contest the ball
Liverpool's Stephen Wright was again impressive

Only a fine fingertip save from Robinson prevented the Italians from doubling their lead after Emiliano Bonazzoli had shook off Barry on 32 minutes.

Platt sent on Jermaine Pennant and Scott Parker at the start of the second half and the change seemed to inspire a previously inert England.

Following a spell of concerted pressure, the home side got the reward and deservedly levelled the tie, 14 minutes after the break.

It arrived from the likeliest source as well, an England set-piece.

Knight again won the ball in the air from a corner and Barry swivelled well to send a low left-foot shot through Jermain Defoe's legs and into the net.

Portsmouth's Aston Villa target Peter Crouch then replaced Etherington and the former Spurs and QPR striker showed some nice touches in the closing stages.

England Under-21: Robinson, Wright, Knight, Barry, Samuel, Wright-Phillips, Jenas, Prutton, Etherington, Alan Smith, Defoe. Subs: Parker, Bywater, Gardner, Crouch, Pennant.

Italy Under-21: Generoso Rossi, Bonera, Bellini, Ferrari, Cannavaro, Maresca, Marchionni, Brighi, Maccarone, Pirlo, Bonazzoli. Subs: Agliardi, Castellini, Lucchini, Zaccado, Donati, Gatti, Pinzi, Gilardino, Iaquinta.

Referee: Alan Kelly (Ireland)

Att: 21,000

BBC Sport's Steve Wilson
"The demise of Italian football has clearly been exaggerated"
England Under-21s boss David Platt
"In the second-half we took the game to them"
Other top World Cup 2002 stories:

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


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