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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Luckless England left rock-bottom
Finland 0-0 England
England were robbed of a morale-boosting World Cup victory against Finland in a controversial finale in Helsinki.
And Albania's shock 2-0 win over Greece means England now languish at the bottom of Group Nine - already facing a major struggle to reach the finals in Japan and Korea in 2002.
Arsenal's Ray Parlour looked to have snatched the winner four minutes from time when he danced past the Finnish defence and shot home via the crossbar.
Replays showed Parlour's shot clearly crossed the line, but French referee Alain Sars and his assistants completed a night of ill-fortune for England by failing to give the goal.
It was hardly a throwback to Geoff Hurst, 1966 and all that - the setting and the quality of a low-key encounter saw to that.
But it would have been the perfect tonic after the trauma of Kevin Keegan's resignation.
Instead, caretaker coach Howard Wilkinson was left with only the consolation of the first point of the 2002 qualifying campaign to comfort him.
England did not deliver a vintage performance in a disappointing game, but they will be massively frustrated to be denied victory in such dramatic fashion.
Referee Sars was also in controversial action early on, failing to send off Finland goalkeeper Antti Niemi after he fouled Teddy Sheringham when he was clean through.
But in the end, England will be thankful for small mercies after one of the most tortuous weeks in their recent history.
England's revamped line-up - showing six changes from the side defeated by Germany - were denied the perfect start in controversial fashion.
The offence came outside the area, but it was still a major surprise when French referee Alain Sars reprieved Niemi with a yellow card.
England's players were angered, and the frustration only increased when the resulting free kick was comfortably cleared.
Niemi was fortunate again after 20 minutes when, in a moment of blind panic, he clearly picked the ball up outside the penalty area, but remarkably it was not spotted by referee Sars or his assistants.
England were dominant in the first half, but it was supremacy without a cutting edge.
They came closest when Emile Heskey touched Dennis Wise's free kick towards goal, but his Liverpool team-mate Sami Hyypia cleared off the line under pressure from Martin Keown.
Heskey was posing problems for Finland with his pace and power in the early stages, creating an opening for Sheringham which was met with a disappointingly weak finish from the Manchester United veteran.
England's only other moment of danger came four minutes later when Mikael Forssell shot narrowly over after finding space inside the penalty area.
Finland opened the second half in more positive mood, with gifted Barcelona midfield man Jari Litmanen finally exerting his influence on proceedings.
He was closing in on a cross from Nurmela after 53 minutes, only to see Parlour clear with a magnificent defensive header at the far post.
It was a much more even contest after the interval, and Finland's increased pressure prompted caretaker coach Wilkinson into his first changes after 69 minutes.
Wilkinson's changes were surprising, with Sheringham, one of England's most influential performers, taken off along with Aston Villa's Gareth Barry.
Real Madrid misfit Steve McManaman was given his chance, along with Manchester United youngster Wes Brown, who slotted into an unfamiliar right back position.
Finland had the best chance of the game after 73 minutes, and this time England were grateful to the heavily-criticised Seaman for staying on level terms.
Litmanen's delicate flick released Forssel, but the Crystal Palace striker hesitated, allowing Seaman to plunge bravely at his feet to save as England survived their first major scare.
England were suddenly under pressure, and it was an uncharacteristic piece of poor control by Litmanen that let them off the hook with only Seaman to beat.
Then came the late Parlour drama - with memories revived of the 1966 World Cup campaign and Geoff Hurst's goal.
This time luck was not on England's side, and they left Helsinki cursing.
Finland: Niemi, Helin, Saarinen, Hyypia, Tihinen, Nurmela, Wiss, Valakari, Forssell, Litmanen, Johansson. Subs: Jaaskelaninen, Reini, Kottila, Salli, Kuqi, Riihilahti, Kolkka.
England: Seaman, P. Neville, Barry, Wise, Southgate, Keown, Parlour, Scholes, A. Cole, Sheringham, Heskey. Subs: McManaman, Martyn, Barmby, Ferdinand, J. Cole, Brown, Owen.
Referee: A Sars (France.)
11 Oct 00 | Photo Galleries
Finland v England - in pictures
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