By William Wood | In UEFA European Under-21 Championship
England secured a hard-earned 1-0 win over rivals Portugal in the Under-21s UEFA European Championship at Wembley, with Micah captaining Stuart Pearce’s men to another three points to close the gap on group leaders Greece.
Daniel Rose’s goal was enough to claim the win and strengthen the Three Lions’ position in the group as they moved six points of clear of third-placed Portugal, and to within three of Greece with a game in hand.
The game was preceded by a minutes silence for the late Robert Enke, and perhaps the moment was partly responsible for a slow start to the game as both sides gradually found their rhythm.
The first half-chance of the game fell to the hosts, with Rose chipping in an inviting cross which evaded Newcastle United forward Andy Carroll’s foot by inches.
Provider then turned near-goalscorer as Tom Cleverly picked out Rose with a cross of his own only for the young midfielder to direct his header back across goal.
With 23 minutes on the clock Rose got an almost identical opportunity to break the deadlock but this time his header rebounded off the bar, and England were almost punished for the wasted opportunites as the visitors went close themselves.
Yazalde Gomes Pinto controlled the ball six yards from goal but his side footed effort flew over the bar, and Carroll followed suit at the other end of pitch as his header missed the target.
The game appeared to be deadlocked but, with five minutes of normal time on the clock, Rose finally found a way through, collecting Carroll’s knock-down and slotting home from the edge of the six-yard box.
When the teams returned after the break it appeared that England’s task was to reduce the threat posed by Portugal’s attack, but Miguel Vitor had an opportunity to equalise but instead he nodded wide.
The 33,000-plus support at England’s home were becoming increasingly anxious as the visitors began probing in the knowledge that they needed at least a point, and for a period the closest the hosts got to a chance was when Cleverly went down in the box only for his penalty appeals to be waved away.
There was a final opportunity for Joao Aurelio, but his low shot was calmly collected by Scott Loach, and the remaining minutes were closed out comfortably as Micah marshalled the defence successfully, with Pearce’s men marching on in their quest for qualification.
England: Daniel Rose (40’)
England: Scott Loach, Ryan Bertrand, Michael Mancienne, Micah Richards©, Chris Smalling, Kieran Gibbs, Tom Cleverley, Fabien Delph, Fabrice Muamba, Daniel Rose, Andrew Carroll. Subs:Frank Fielding, Kyle Naughton, Jack Cork, Henri Lansbury, Dan Gosling, Zavon Hines, Daniel Sturridge
Portugal: Hugo Ventura, Daniel Carrico©, Fabio Faria, Miguel Vitor, Adrien Silva, Bruno Pereirinha, Pedro Moreira, Rui Pedro, Fredy Gomes Ribeiro, Yazalde Gomes Pinto, André Filipe, Alves Monteiro. Subs: Diego Silva, Andre Santos, Andre Pinto, Andre Castro, Joao Aurelio, Rabiola André Coelho Lopes, Tiago Cintra