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Dunn rescue act; Dazzling display keeps youngsters' hopes alive: HOLLAND U21 . . . 2 ENGLAND U21 . . . 2.

A BRILLIANT solo goal from skipper David Dunn kept England's European Under-21 Championship dreams alive after a major scare in Holland.

The 21-year-old Blackburn midfielder produced a breathtaking run and finish to complete a remarkable comeback 58 minutes into a game which had looked to be slipping away from David Platt's side.

Rafael van der Vaart fired the Dutch into a 25th-minute lead and when impressive striker Dirk Kuyt made it two before the break, the writing looked to be on the wall for England.

But Fulham midfielder Sean Davis gave his side a lifeline in first-half injurytime with a well-taken header to set the stage for Dunn to claim the headlines and preserve Platt's unbeaten start to his reign.

Last night's draw sends England into Tuesday's return leg at Pride Park with everything to play for, although they know they will have to start better on home soil than they did in Utrecht if all their hard work is to count for anything.

Platt made three changes to the side which booked its place in the showdown with the Dutch against Greece last month as central defender John Terry returned from suspension to replace Gareth Barry and Davis came in for Jonathan Greening.

But such was the importance placed on the fixture by senior boss Sven-Goran Eriksson that the U21s manager was able to select full international Michael Carrick in a strong midfield line-up alongside skipper Dunn, Davis and Jermaine Pennant.

And Platt left his engine room staff in no doubt that they were in for a tough test as opposite number Mark Wotte named Ajax dangerman Rafael van der Vaart in his starting 11.

The manager sent his players into action with orders to forget their 4-0 friendly triumph over the Dutch in August, and the wisdom of that advice became abundantly apparent as Mark Wotte's side took charge virtually from the off.

Carrick and Davis looked to have put their side on the right track in the early stages as they dominated in the middle of the park, but as van der Vaart and Remco van der Schaaf warmed to their task, Holland took control.

Patrick Ax should really have put them in front with 16 minutes gone but looped his header hopelessly over from Andy van der Meyde's cross, but his side did not have to wait much longer for their opening goal.

Kuyt was proving a real handful in the England box, and van der Vaart cashed in on 25 minutes when, he turned smartly to prod a shot past Chris Kirkland.

It could have been 2-0 10 minutes later when Ledley King was rescued by Terry after his slip allowed Youssouf Hersi in on goal, but the respite was only temporary as van der Vaart's quickly taken free-kick came back off the post for Kuyt to slot the rebound home.

England, who had by then lost Malcolm Christie through injury, had earlier seen claims for a goal turned down when defender Jos van Nieuwstadt smashed Pennant's goal-bound shot against his own crossbar.

But they grabbed a lifeline in injury time when, after Pennant had been tripped by Ax, Davis rose to head Carrick's free-kick past Jelle ten Rouwelaar.

Dunn served warning of his ability to run at defenders within two minutes of the restart when he surged through the orange shirts to test the keeper, but he went one better when he repeated the dose 11 minutes later.

Shola Ameobi, on for Christie, laid the ball into his path around 45 yards out and watched the Blackburn man blast his way through the markers before guiding an inch-perfect shot into the bottom corner. It was just what Platt's side needed and they grew visibly in confidence as the minutes ticked away.

But the Dutch were far from giving up on their hopes of victory and made Platt's youngsters scrap for every ball.

Striker Jermain Defoe got his first real sight of goal 12 minutes from time and unselfishly squared the ball for Dunn, but the skipper delayed his shot too long and the chance had gone.

Holland rallied again late in the day with van der Vaart firing over at the death, but the visitors stood firm to claim the draw for which they had battled so hard.

CAPTION(S):

COMBATIVE: David Dunn in action for England under-21s last night
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 10, 2001
Words:726
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