Darren does it again
England Under-21s 2Wales Under-21s 0By Derek Davis at Ewood ParkChief Football WriterDARREN Bent sealed an England victory and won his own personal duel with Blues team-mate Lewis Price.
England Under-21s 2
Wales Under-21s 0
By Derek Davis at Ewood Park
Chief Football Writer
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DARREN Bent sealed an England victory and won his own personal duel with Blues team-mate Lewis Price.
The Blues striker kept up his amazing goals ratio for his country at Ewood Park by notching his seventh in nine appearances, all as a substitute.
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At least this time he had 71 minutes, his longest run-out for England yet, but the result was the same.
And after the match, in which Bent replaced the injured Carlton Cole, manager Peter Taylor confirmed that Cole had aggravated an ankle injury and will miss Tuesday's clash with Azerbaijan in Baku.
Taylor said: “Carlton won't play and at the moment we've only got two other strikers in the squad. I may call somebody up but I wouldn't call them up to play in front of Darren or Jon (Stead) - so they will be the starting two.
“He probably didn't like me when I named the team but he's such a cracking lad that he just smiles and gets on with it and is pleased to be here.
“I'm pleased he's here too. He has done very well; he chases everything and is so quick. I'm sure he would have enjoyed scoring against his Ipswich team-mate.
“I'm delighted for him. His goalscoring record is amazing.”
He forced the ball beyond Price for England's second goal and silenced his close friend after the pair had engaged in a war of words since the draw for this European Championship qualifying group was made last June.
Price had made a save from Bent and played well overall but will now have to wait until next March to try to gain some revenge.
The duo instantly hugged at the final whistle and swapped shirts as the friendship strengthened.
Bent said: “It was amazing to score again and I'm delighted we won and are top of the group.
“Lewis and I have been going at each other non-stop but we have seen who the winner is. But we are good friends and will stay that way.
“I felt for him a bit because he played really well and did nothing wrong. He kept them in the game for long periods but we knew we had to get the breakthrough eventually.”
Bent's goal was something of a rarity in what was his longest England run-out.
He added: “I don't get many with my head so it was good to get on the end of one.
“It was also good for me to get such a long run in the game. We knew Carlton (Cole) was struggling with his ankle so I was ready to go on at any time and I nearly scored straight away, but Lewis has made a fantastic save.”
The Town keeper, who saved a penalty against Coventry City last Sunday, had hitherto kept clean sheets in both his previous Under-21 appearances, but was beaten moments after half time by Newcastle United's James Milner and then by Bent.
A glum Price said: “I'm gutted that Darren scored and we lost. When he came on and I managed to turn one round the corner I was hoping it was going to be my night and I would be able to keep him out.
“But he has an amazing goalscoring record and is a really tricky player. He is a good in the air and there was nothing I could with the goal.
“Still there is always next time. He played well and this won't split our friendship. I just know I won't hear the end of it when we get back.”
Price was virtually redundant until Bent went on and within a minute the Blues striker carved out a chance for himself after Jonathan Stead found him wide left but his venomous low shot was touched round a post by Price for a corner.
And so the contest began in earnest.
Price was well positioned to deal with a Calum Davenport volley and again when Stead burst through to shoot from 18 yards. He did well again to hold a 20-yard James Milner effort.
Bent almost got a sniff with a Jermaine Pennant knockdown but Danny Parslow cleared before he could strike.
Stead, the darling of the Ewood Park crowd, almost benefited from good work by Bent when he controlled a long kick from Leeds United keeper Scott Carson but was blocked.
Even a marvellous piece of skill from the 20-year-old failed to find the net when he hit a tremendous volley running through onto a waist high curling cross from Brighton's Daniel Harding on the hour mark.
Bent used his pace to constantly put Price under pressure on his clearances but Kelvin Davis' understudy stayed cool and never missed a beat.
Milner put England ahead a minute after the break when he latched onto a quality Pennant through ball and lashed an angled shot past Price, who could do little to prevent it.
Bent got his head on to a Stewart Downing cross but lacked direction, and played a great dummy to leave the ball for Stead and then tried unsuccessfully to reach his first-time touch.
England's second came when Bent won a free kick on the right flank. Milner swung in a deep ball and Bent forced the ball in with a header that Price got to but could not hold.
Stead hit the crossbar with a rasping 25-yarder and Price pulled off a good save low down to thwart Milner.
Wales had never scored against England since the sides first met at this level in 1976 and former Ipswich Town star Brian Talbot was in the young Lions team.
That almost changed when Crewe's David Vaughan rapped a 25-yard swerving shot against a post eight minutes before half time.
England top their group with a 100% record going into their fourth game next week when they travel to Azerbaijan and Bent has scored in each game - as Price will no doubt hear all about when they return to Ipswich next Thursday.
England Under-21s (4-4-2): Carson, Hunt, Harding, Johnson (Taylor, 83) Davenport, O'Neil, Pennant (Whittingham, 76) Milner, Cole (Bent, 19) Stead and Downing. Subs not used: Kilgallon, Lonergan, Baines and Hinshelwood.
Wales Under-21s (4-5-1): Price, Anthony, Gilbert, Fowler (Crowell, 70) Parslow, Duffy, Pipe, Tolley, Calliste, Vaughan and Birchall (Carpenter, 76). Subs not used: Davies, Morgan, Spender, Fish and Worgan.
Referee: D Ledentu (France). Attendance: 17,567.