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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 21:56 GMT
France U21 2-1 England U21
Gary O'Neil and Anton Ferdinand square up to France's Anthony Le Tallec
A fiery game was never far away from erupting into violence
A controversial late penalty saw England Under-21s suffer an agonising 3-2 aggregate play-off defeat to France in the European Championship qualifier.

Jimmy Briand's spot-kick won it for France after Kieran Richardson's tentative lunge on Lassana Diarra.

Darren Bent, who also hit the post, gave England the lead with a fabulous header 10 minutes after the break.

But the dangerous Franck Ribery fired the French level with a crisp low shot that just evaded Scott Carson's dive.

It was cruel luck on England who played a full part in a thrilling but niggly encounter that was always on the verge of boiling over.

England's pacy front pairing of Bent and Carlton Cole caused all sorts of problems throughout and Bent had two glorious chances in the opening 12 minutes.

First the Charlton man saw his toe-poked effort come back off the post after latching onto Tom Huddlestone's fine through-ball and Richardson's follow-up was then brilliantly blocked by French keeper Jeremy Gavanon.

And Bent then wasted a much easier chance after racing clear of the French defence.

Gary O'Neil, who returned as skipper after missing the first leg with a calf injury, sent Bent away but the striker's low right-foot shot was easily held by Gavanon.

But the French were looking equally dangerous with impressive winger Ribery to the fore.

His delightful through-ball saw Briand wrestled to the ground by Michael Dawson who was fortunate only to get a yellow card.

Dawson's lucky escape seemed to further fire up the French and they began to dominate possession.

Another teasing run and cross from Ribery forced Carson into a wonderful one-handed save from Anthony Le Tallec's close-range header.

Darren Bent (left) in action during England's European Under-21 Championship qualifier against France
England goalscorer Darren Bent (left) tussles with Bakari Sagna

England began the second half just as positively as they started the first and on 55 minutes their brave, attacking approach was rewarded.

Ryan Taylor swung in a free-kick from the right-hand side and Bent soared high above the French defence to power his header in off the post from 15 yards.

But within four minutes some more Ribery magic saw France draw level as he turned Dawson inside out and shot low across Carson into the far corner.

Dean Ashton, on as a substitute for Darren Ambrose, thundered a header just wide from a free-kick as the chances continued to flow.

Ribery teased his way to the by-line but Anton Ferdinand somehow blocked Briand's shot and Ribery then saw a low shot tipped round the post.

But the French did win it when Richardson's lunge on Chelsea midfielder Diarra saw referee Matteo Trefoloni point to the spot - despite there appearing to be minimal contact - and Briand's low penalty just beat Carson's dive.

  • England Under-21 manager Peter Taylor:
    "We are disappointed with the penalty decision. I think it is the quickest decision I have ever seen a referee make.

    "The players thought that their player dived and I think their player has admitted that he did.

    "I was also disappointed that a few of their players were trying to get our players booked.

    "We don't seem to do that sort of thing in England so I was disappointed with the tactic but it's all part of the under-21s' education."

    France: Gavanon, Sagna, Zubar, Badiane, Berthod, Faubert, Didot (Diarra 56), Mavuba, Ribery, Briand, Le Tallec.

    England: Carson, Taylor, Dawson, Ferdinand, Onuoha (Whittingham 79), Ambrose (Ashton 66), O'Neil, Huddlestone, Richardson, Bent, Cole (Jerome 89).

    Referee: M Trefoloni (Italy)

    Interview: England Under 21 boss Peter Taylor


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