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England humiliated by Australia

February 13, 2003 12:28 IST

England suffered their first ever loss to Australia on Wednesday as a woeful performance at Upton Park ended in boos and a fully-deserved 3-1 friendly defeat.

Tony Popovic headed Australia into a 17th minute lead and Harry Kewell added a second before England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson kept to his plan of replacing his starting XI with a side aged 25 and under for the second-half.

The tactic paid off when Francis Jeffers pulled one back in the 70th minute, but Australia's Brett Emerton guided home an easy third for a result that will have alarm bells ringing for England's Euro 2004 qualifying campaign.

Wayne Rooney, at 17, became England's youngest ever player but his sparky contribution was overshadowed by another dismal showing from a country whose last result was a 2-2 home draw with Macedonia.

England, who face Liechtenstein on March 29 and Group Seven leaders Turkey in their next Euro 2004 qualifiers, failed to find any attacking rhythm in the first half against a well-organised Socceroo defence.

Australia fired the first shot in anger when Kewell sent in a 20-metre drive which David James did well to turn round for a corner.

But the West Ham keeper and his defence were caught out by Stan Lazaridis's free kick from the right as Popovic outjumped Gary Neville to head home at the far post.



hit back almost immediately, conjuring up two quick chances.

Paul Scholes had the ball in the Australia net minutes later after a goalmouth scramble, but the effort was disallowed for a foul, while Michael Owen dispossessed Australia keeper Mark Schwarzer but could only find the side netting from the tightest of angles.

England kept up the pressure but there were clear chances at both ends as Mark Viduka was given a free header which James only just tipped over the bar and Paul Scholes, Owen and debutant James Beattie all fired wide.

Those misses came back to haunt England just before the break when Kewell latched on to a long ball forward, muscled his way past Rio Ferdinand, who fell over, and coolly rounded James before slotting home.

The Upton Road crowd booed as Eriksson's men left the pitch at halftime and then cheered when the loudspeaker announced minutes later that all 11 England players would be substituted for the second half.

England looked sharper after the break and Rooney fired in a couple of probing shots before their pressure was rewarded when 19-year-old Jermaine Jenas broke down the right flank and Jeffers met his superb cross with a glancing header.

But they failed to conjure any more clear chances and Australia, who had suffered three defeats in their previous five meetings with England, put the result with Emerton's cool finish from close range.

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