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By ESPN Staff

Norway scalp keeps England in control

England took a stranglehold on European Under-21 Championship qualifying Group Eight after holding on to beat Norway in Drammen.

• Pearce lauds brave Dawson

Stuart Pearce's England maintained their 100% start to the new campaign and ended that of their opponents to put them firmly on course to qualify for a fourth successive finals.

Like their senior counterparts in Montenegro on Friday, England raced into a 2-0 lead, prolific defender Craig Dawson and captain Jordan Henderson both scoring inside seven minutes.

The dangerous Valon Berisha pulled one back midway through the first half but, unlike Montenegro, Norway failed to equalise, wasting more than one opportunity to do so.

The result left England on nine points, three clear of Norway ahead of next month's double-header against Iceland and Belgium.

Monday night's match was also part of a double-header, one that was expected to provide the toughest test of the campaign for Pearce's latest batch of youngsters.

But Thursday's victory in Iceland was a cakewalk and despite a spate of injuries - including one to left-back Matthew Briggs in the warm-up - Norway also appeared cannon fodder early on in Drammen.

Any fears about how England, who handed debuts to Peterborough's Ryan Bennett and Blackburn's Jason Lowe, would adapt their opponents' synthetic 4G pitch were quickly dispelled when Dawson powered home what is fast becoming a trademark header from Henri Lansbury's corner inside three minutes.

It was the West Brom defender's third goal in just four under-21 starts and it got better for the visitors four minutes later when Henderson pounced on Ross Barkley's centre to make it 2-0.

But England soon surrendered the initiative and were made to pay in the 23rd minute when Nathan Baker - in for Briggs - failed to deal with a ball over the top, allowing Berisha to tuck home Markus Henriksen's cross.

The visitors suffered another blow when Dawson was forced off for almost 10 minutes after a clash of heads left blood streaming down his face.

Baker cleared a Havard Nordtveit effort off the line before Dawson eventually returned, sporting a Terry Butcher-style bandage.

But Norway should have levelled three minutes before half-time when Frederik Berge shot tamely at Jack Butland.

England withdrew Barkley for Gary Gardner early in the second half but they were unable to re-establish their early dominance.

More substitutions followed for both sides and one of them thought he had set up the equaliser in the 80th minute but Markus Pedersen somehow scuffed Yann Erik De Lanlay's cutback from just six yards.

Lansbury was desperately unlucky not to kill the contest three minutes from time when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain - whose hat-trick destroyed Iceland on Thursday - danced past Stefan Strandberg and stroked the ball across for the Arsenal midfielder, whose sliding finish smashed against the underside of the crossbar.

There was some last-ditch defending in the closing moments as Norway poured forward but England kept them out.

Under-21 results

San Marino 0-8 Germany
Scotland 2-2 Austria
Finland 0-1 Sweden
Estonia 0-1 Croatia
Azerbaijan 2-2 Belgium
Norway 1-2 England

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