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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Aug 20, 2008

Pearce pleased with U-21s after Slovenian test

England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce felt his side's 2-1 international friendly victory over Slovenia was useful preparation for more demanding challenges ahead.

The visitors had taken a surprise lead in the 11th minute when Etien Velikonja was sent clear and calmly dispatched a low shot past goalkeeper Joe Lewis.

England equalised in the 25th minute after Slovenia goalkeeper Matjaz Rozman flapped at a free-kick from Tom Huddlestone and Micah Richards was left with the simple task of tapping the ball into an empty net from six yards.

Under-21 captain James Milner sealed the win 10 minutes later after he received the ball with his back to goal on the edge of the area, turned his man and struck a low shot past Rozman.

Pearce's side are next in action against Portugal in their last UEFA Under-21 Championship qualifier group match on September 5 before the play-offs for the finals in October.

'We are pleased to have won the game against Slovenia - this was an important game for us - but we'll have to improve,' Pearce said.

'There was some good aspects of the game but plenty to work on and we're level headed enough to realise that we have stuff to improve on.

'It is always very difficult when you only have the players for two days and we've got two big matches coming up now.

'We have got the Wembley match against Portugal to finish the group and the play-off game after that so it has been good to have a bit more contact time with the players.

'You learn something from every game at this level and we'll look at the game again on tape and see if we can change things if we need to when we see the players again.

'Portugal will be a fantastic game - they are strong side and we drew 1-1 out there in a hard-fought match between the two of us.

'They have some good players in their ranks and can draw from the seniors with a few players like us that have been upgraded, so it will be interesting how the game pans out.

'And of course the opportunity to play at Wembley will be fantastic for the development of some of these players.'

Pearce revealed that he omitted Aston Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor, who hit a hat-trick against Manchester City last week, after he suffered a slight injury in the warm-up.

He added: 'The situation with him [Agbonlahor] was that he played 90 minutes at the weekend and had tightened his groin a little bit in the warm-up.

'So we thought it was wise to leave him away from it and that was the reason why he didn't come on second half.

'Also we wanted to have a look at Matt Derbyshire and Frazier Campbell who has obviously done very well up here, acquitted himself well in the game and posed a threat.'

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