France U19 1 England U19
Matthew Fryatt, the Walsall striker, pounced on a golden opportunity to earn England a crucial draw against France in the European Under-19 Championships at The Oval in Belfast last night.
France should prove to be the England youngsters' toughest opponents in the competition and, with matches against Armenia and Norway, Martin Hunter's team should be confident of progressing.
Despite taking an early lead, when the otherwise well- drilled French defence was carved open, England were too predictable and offered little threat.
After conceding an equaliser England were hanging on at the end as France tried to force a result.
England were in front after only nine minutes when a through ball by Norwich's Ryan Jarvis found the French absent without leave.
Fryatt could hardly believe his luck as he sidestepped the stranded goalkeeper and rolled the ball into an empty net.
France, though, were behind for only nine minutes when the England defence was exposed by the run of Abdoulaye Balde.
The most experienced of the French team ran clear to score without a challenge.
England lost their way a little, and a caution for Derby's Lee Holmes, for a rash challenge, summed up their frustration as the French grew in composure.
Sunderland's Grant Leadbitter joined Holmes in the book after the break for a lunge and the French held sway, with England unable to offer Fryatt any support or service.
MK Dons' David Martin, in the England goal, had a couple of minor scares late on but a draw was a fair result.
Lawrie Sanchez, the Northern Ireland senior manager, was in the crowd as the hosts kicked off their group with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Greece at Belfast's Windsor Park.
The only goal came 16 minutes into the match when a shot from Lazaros Christodopoulos was parried by Northern Ireland goalkeeper Paul Willis and Antonis Petropoulos reacted quickest to score.
Northern Ireland face difficult matches against Germany and Serbia & Montenegro.
The latter, their opponents tomorrow, surprised the Germans 4-2 in their first group match.