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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

Barclays Premier League
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By ESPN Staff

Pearce hails Agbonlahor

England Under-21 manager Stuart Pearce hailed the goalscoring prowess of Gabriel Agbonlahor after he guided his side to a 2-0 win over Bulgaria at stadium:mk.

Agbonlahor's 40th-minute header was added to by James Milner's 82nd-minute penalty to ensure Pearce's side continued a perfect start to their European Championship qualifying campaign.

The visitors had the better of the first-half before Agbonlahor's timely strike and Pearce admitted the Aston Villa striker's ability to steal a goal is proving decisive - for club and country.

Pearce said: 'Gabby was a little bit quiet for us in the first half but in the second half he played much better.

'He's got that knack of scoring a goal. He's doing it for Villa now on a consistent basis in the Premier League and proved that he's a handful and showed that again tonight.

'With players like him around, you have the potential to get your nose in front when you least deserve it and that is a great skill to have in your team.'

The 21-year-old Agbonlahor, who scored the winner for Villa in last weekend's Premier League derby with arch-rivals Birmingham, ended the game on a low note after he was forced off injured.

The forward picked up the injury in a late challenge on Bulgaria defender Ivan Ivanov and Pearce revealed he may be a doubt for Tuesday's clash with Portugal.

He said: 'Gabby just wronged his knee and we'll have to check on that. The medical staff here are absolutely top-notch and he'll get the best treatment but it's too early for me to say how he is.

'I spoke to him just now and he said it's settled down so we hope he'll be okay for both club and country.'

Pearce was forced to change his side at half-time, bringing on Birmingham midfielder Fabrice Muamba for striker Matt Derbyshire in a successful ploy to stop Bulgaria's dangerous attacks.

And Pearce believes his youngsters' ability to take his criticism and guidance stands them in good stead to continue their success.

He said: 'I'm proud of the team's achievements. They're a great collective and there is a great team spirit about them and some fantastic characters in the dressing room.

'At half-time, you can say a few choice words and know that they will take it on board.

'They set those standards and knew at half-time that it wasn't good enough.'