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By ESPN Staff

Sturridge strikes as England beat Portugal

England Under-21s kept their hopes of qualifying for next summer's European Championships alive with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Portugal in Barcelos.

Defeat by Group 9 leaders Greece in their last match in March had left Stuart Pearce's side five points adrift but they closed the gap thanks to Daniel Sturridge's 35th-minute goal.

Victory for England in their final qualifying match against Lithuania on Tuesday should now be enough to send them through to the play-offs ahead of the finals in Denmark.

Pearce chose not to start with Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere, who made his senior England debut last month, while £7 million Manchester United signing Bebe picked up his first Under-21 cap for Portugal.

David Simao had the first effort on goal eight minutes in but it was from a long way out and flew well over the bar. England striker Danny Welbeck then produced a clever flick to break into the box but Daniel Carrico was there to clear the danger.

The cagey opening to a game both sides needed to win was summed up 24 minutes in when England goalkeeper Frank Fielding was booked for time-wasting. The visitors should have opened the scoring when Welbeck tapped in Kyle Walker's cross but the flag was incorrectly raised for offside.

However, England only had to wait seven minutes to put that behind them as Tom Cleverley played in Sturridge and the Chelsea man chipped goalkeeper Rui Patricio.

The same pair then combined again but this time Cleverley shot high and wide as England had to settle for a one-goal lead at half-time. England continued to press after the break and Tottenham's Danny Rose had a close-range effort well blocked by Carrico.

Bebe had been largely disappointing but he tested Fielding for the first time with a shot in the 65th minute that the Blackburn man beat away.

The home side were cranking up the pressure and Fielding was called on again to save from Andre Pinto as the clock ticked down.

There was still time for Welbeck and substitute Nathan Delfouneso to both miss presentable chances but the win was all that mattered for Pearce and England.

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