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Micah celebrates his goal against Finland

Micah grabbed the winner for ten-man England Under-21s as they secured a 2-1 victory over Finland in their opening game of the European Championships.

Monday June 15, 2009England Under-21s v Finland

By William Wood | In UEFA European Under-21 Championship

Micah grabbed the winner for ten-man England Under-21s as they secured a 2-1 victory over Finland in their opening game of the European Championships, and he spoke exclusively with MicahRichards.com to underline his delight.

With Stuart Pearce’s men looking to assert themselves in the game early on, it was in fact Finland who started brighter, Micah – playing in a central defensive role – closing down Berat Sadik to stifle an early attack.

There were anxious moments at the back with seven minutes on the clock as Michael Mancienne and Joe Hart misunderstood each other’s intentions, but the Chelsea defender eventually hoofed the ball from danger.

Sadik in particular was looking dangerous and he went down following a challenge by Keiron Gibbs, and while the referee waved play on replays suggested there was contact.

England did, however, grab the lead against the run of play, Aston Villa’s Gabriel Agbonlahor bursting down the left before finding Lee Cattermole, and the Wigan midfielder’s scuffed effort found the back of the net.

From a corner Micah threatened to add a second with a powerful header which sailed just over, and the 20-year old went close with another with half-an-hour played following James Milner’s cross.

However, just as the Three Lions looked settled with their lead established, Mancienne was caught in defence and subsequently brought down Sadik in the box having let his opponent get goal side.

As such, the defender was handed his marching orders, while Tim Sparv converted the spot-kick to level the scores.

It was to be the final notable act of the first-half as England controlled possession without creating any real openings, and the nervous tone of their play after the break was reminiscent of the opening exchanges.

One area that the Finns had struggled to counter in England’s play was from Milner’s set-piece, and another fine ball picked out Micah with pinpoint precision, and the Manchester City man powered his header home to restore the lead for Pearce’s side.

The youngster went close with a header nine minutes later as Milner floated in yet another set-piece, though the latter effort drifted over, and Finland subsequently enjoyed a period of domination.

Micah had to be on his toes to prevent Sadik from getting through on goal, though he was forced off with a knock moments later, receiving applause for his display.

And the remaining members of the team locked Finland out in the dying minutes to secure the three points from England and kick-start their campaign ahead of the Group B clashes with Spain and Germany.

“It was really important to get off to a winning start and it’s a great confidence boost, especially as we were down to ten-men,” Micah said.

“I had a few chances so I was delighted to hit the back of the net with one of them, but the win was the most important thing.”

Having been a regular in the right-back berth for City, Micah was moved into the centre following Nedum Onouha’s injury, and he was only too happy to slot in.

“I don’t mind where I play and will give 100%, and I enjoyed it,” he added.

The only negative was the way in which Micah was forced off with a knock late on, though the youngster remains hopeful that he will shake off the injury and feature in the side’s next fixture.

“I landed awkwardly on my knee but I’ll know more tomorrow and hopefully it won’t rule me out of any of the matches.”