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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 10, 2009

Pearce upbeat as England U-21s are beaten

England Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce insists the experience of playing a senior Ecuador side was more important than his youngsters' long unbeaten run, which was ended in Malaga.

Pearce's team were 2-0 up against the South Americans - who had players with World Cup experience in their squad - before eventually losing at Estadio La Rosaleda.

It was a first defeat in 16 games and since 2005 the under-21s had only lost a penalty shoot-out to Holland.

''It was about experience and it served us very well,'' Pearce said. ''They had 500 senior caps between them, we had five.''

Pearce is adamant that the only unbeaten record that matters will come over the summer when they travel to Sweden for the European Championships.

''It will matter in the final only,'' he said.

''The positive thing is we've only been beaten in a penalty shoot-out and have still not lost to a team in our own age group.''

England looked to be on course for a win from their Spanish trip after Adam Johnson and Fraizer Campbell scored stunning first-half goals.

Middlesbrough winger Johnson flicked the ball over two defenders before volleying into the top corner, while Campbell finished off a swift counter-attack with a crisp finish.

''The two goals would grace any pitch in the world,'' Pearce said.

''We were happy with 2-0 against an Ecuador senior side. We gave away three sloppy goals. Maybe a draw would have been fair but the main thing was playing against a team with a different style.''

Ecuador struck back through Joffre Guerron and Pablo Palacios, then Manchester City striker Felipe Caicedo netted the winner with eight minutes left.

''I didn't have him at City,'' said Pearce, who was boss at Eastlands until 2007. ''I didn't have any money to buy anyone!''

Micah Richards picked up a knock, which showed Pearce how much of a test his players were given.

''It was a friendly game in name alone,'' he said. ''We were chasing the game at the end, pushing them to the wire.

''The important thing was the reaction of the players to what the senior players were doing. We were outstanding in that respect. They took over-zealous challenges and you have to walk away.

''Sometimes with England players we have to be a bit cuter.''

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