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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Mar 23, 2007

Pazzini stars as curtain goes up at Wembley

England U21 3 - 3 Italy U21

Italy youngster Gianpaolo Pazzini stole the limelight in the first match at the new Wembley Stadium by scoring a hat-trick and forcing a high-scoring draw against England Under-21s.

Pazzini opened the scoring in the first minute of the friendly then grabbed two equalisers in the second half after the hosts had dragged themselves back into the game.

He should have scored a winner with 12 minutes to go but sliced a shot wide with the goal at his mercy.

David Bentley became the first England player to score at the new ground when he equalised in the first half, and Wayne Routledge and debutant Matt Derbyshire were the other scorers.

England fans had waiting seven years for the new national stadium, the last match being when the senior team lost to Germany in 2000.

But within 30 seconds of the kick-off the hosts were behind, with Pazzini stunning the hosts.

Nigel Reo-Coker had proudly led the team out as skipper but he was brushed off the ball by Pazzini, who then headed towards goal as Anton Ferdinand backed away.

From 25 yards out, the Fiorentina player unleashed his drive which took a deflection off Ferdinand and flew into the net just inside Lee Camp's near post.

Television broadcasters timed the goal at 28 seconds, faster than Bryan Robson's strike against Yugoslavia in 1989 which at 38 seconds was the fastest international goal at the old stadium. England's youngsters pushed forward in response, with Bentley forcing goalkeeper Gianluca Curci to push a free-kick from a wide angle around the post, while Kieran Richardson had another set-piece deflected over.

The Azzurri, however, were a threat on the counter attack and Alessandro Rosina should have doubled the lead with a free header before Bentley grabbed the equaliser in the 31st minute.

Bentley's only visit to the old Wembley was to watch Oasis play in concert, but he put himself in the history books as the first England player to score at the new stadium.

He won a free-kick 25 yards from goal after Antonio Nocerino had tripped him. The Blackburn midfielder curled his set-piece over the wall, dropping into the bottom corner and out of Curci's reach.

He could have doubled the lead before the break after releasing Reo-Coker down the right flank before collecting a return pass and sending a shot wide.

The two countries will meet in the group stages of the European Championship finals staged in Holland in June, and the strong challenges suggested it was a friendly they both wanted to impress in.

Although less than two thirds of the 90,000 seats were being used, the yellow cards produced by referee Pieter Vink hinted at the clash being more than a mere exhibition.

England were ahead when Derbyshire, brought on at half-time for Gabriel Agbonlahor, played Routledge through and the Fulham winger scored at the near post.

The visitors levelled in the 53rd minute when Pazzini stabbed in at close range, steering in a shot by Nocerino as the excitement continued.

In the 58th minute, Derbyshire put England back in front, finishing from close range after James Milner powered a cross into the six-yard area.

Pazzini grabbed his hat-trick in the 68th minute, latching onto a ball from Rosina and slotting in his finish at the far post. But for his woeful miss from six yards out, he would have been the match-winner.