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Stuart Pearce - England U21s manager

Tuesday February 10, 2009Micah's Say... England U21 v Ecuador U21

By William Wood | In Micah's Say

Micah could only watch from the touchline as an experienced Ecuador side fought back from two goals down to secure a 3-2 victory over England U21s in their friendly clash, and the Manchester City defender gave his views exclusively to MicahRichards.com.

Having been named in the starting line-up by manager Stuart Pearce alongside established Premier League players such as Tom Huddlestone, Adam Johnson and Lee Cattermole, Micah was assigned the centre-back role against a side possessing six players that featured for Ecuador at the 2006 World Cup finals.

With the match taking place in Malaga, neither side could rely on home dominance to overcome their rivals, though it was Ecuador that settled quicker and had the first chance of the game as Walter Ayovi’s dangerous free-kick beat Tom Heaton but rebounded back off the post.

However, somewhat against the run of play, Middlesbrough’s Adam Johnson capitalised on a mistake in the opponent’s defence, sublimely flicking the ball over Neicer Reasco’s head before volleying the ball into the back of the net and hand the youngsters the lead.

Ecuador immediately went on the offensive, Pablo Palacios in particular threatening with a 20-yard effort which was blocked by Richard Stearman, while Segundo Castillo saved the Three Lions a job as he blocked another Ayovi effort.

As the South Americans continued to press for an equaliser England extended their lead, Huddlestone picking out Michael Kightly with an inch-perfect pass who in turn found Fraizer Campbell, and the on-loan Tottenham Hotspur striker directed the ball home.

With a solid lead seemingly assured, Pearce opted to rest Micah for the second-half, introducing Jack Cork to proceedings as Michael Mancienne filled the void in central defence.

However, events quickly took a turn for the worse as, eight minutes after the interval, Segundo played the ball inside to Joffre Guerron who took the ball through on goal and blasted it past the helpless Heaton.

A minute later Palacios was clean through after a pinpoint pass from midfield and he managed to knock the ball beyond Heaton to level the score against the odds, and Micah’s City team-mate Felipe Caicedo was half-celebrating as his shot looked certain to beat Heaton only for the young stopper to claw the ball away from danger.

Another dangerous Ayovi set-piece from 35-yards required the full attention of Cardiff City’s goalkeeper, though his stern defence was finally penetrated as Caicedo did find the net, turning well inside England’s penalty area and slotting the ball home to seal a remarkable comeback.

Late on, debutant Danny Welbeck almost grabbed a third for England which would have levelled the tie, while Campbell had a goal disallowed for offside, and the final whistle sounded to signal the end of a match that started with great optimism but fizzled out in frustration for Pearce and his troops.

“It was disappointing to lose the game, especially as we were 2-0 up when I came off,” Micah said. “We all feel like we should have won the game.”

“However, as a team we can learn a lot from this match, proving that regardless of what’s left on the clock, the game is never over until the final whistle.”

Micah also took the opportunity to express his determination to fight his way back into Fabio Capello’s plans having impressed when on senior duty for the Three Lions since making his debut as the youngest ever England defender.

“I’m confident I can reclaim my place in the senior side if I keep working hard, and I realise I have to keep trying to impress on the pitch,” the 20-year old continued.

The City man reserved special praise for goalscorer and club team-mate Caicedo, believing he has all the attributes to make a name for himself in the Premier League.

“I see it everyday in training – he has good strength and is a great finisher of the ball,” Micah concluded. “He’s still young and has a lot of time on side with which to improve.”