Sports Mole brings you live text commentary from Gareth Southgate's first match in charge of the England Under-21s as they face Moldova U21s.
By Barney Corkhill, Assistant Editor Filed: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 18:45 UK
Last Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:24 UK
England Under-21s won their first game under Gareth Southgate this evening, beating Moldova Under-21s 1-0, but they will be wondering how it wasn't more.
Saido Berahino opened the scoring on his full debut for the U21s, turning his man inside the box before lashing an effort past the keeper at the near post.
Wilfried Zaha should have made it 2-0 in the second half when he was found by Nathan Redmond's cross, but the Manchester United man headed over from close range.
Berahino then had a glorious chance to double his personal tally, but he missed the ball with the goal gaping having poked it beyond the keeper.
Will Hughes was the last player guilty of missing when it was easier to score, seeing his shot cleared off the line when he only had a defender to beat.
You can read how a dominant 90 minutes of football for England unfolded with Sports Mole's live coverage below.
6.45pmGood evening! Thank you very much for joining Sports Mole for tonight's match between England Under-21s and Moldova Under-21s. Let's get straight down to business, shall we?
6.47pmWe'll start by looking at the hosts tonight, and when looking at this England U21 outfit there is only one place to start now. Gareth Southgate takes charge of his first match at international level having succeeded Stuart Pearce this summer. It is Southgate's first job in management since been dismissed by Middlesbrough in 2009, so all eyes will be on how quickly he can get back into the swing of things from the dugout.
6.49pmWhile Southgate may lack experience in terms of managing at international level, he certainly has plenty of experience of playing at this level. He made 57 appearances for England's senior team between 1995 and 2004, playing in three major tournaments for the Three Lions.
6.51pmConsidering how good a defender he was for England, it is unfortunate that most fans will remember him most for that penalty miss in Euro 1996. It ultimately saw England eliminated from the competition on home soil, and Southgate was the unlucky man to carry much of that responsibility on his shoulders.
6.53pmHowever, he went on to have a stellar career with the likes of Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough, and gained valuable managerial experience at the latter. He couldn't save Middlesbrough from relegation in 2009, however, and he was sacked a few months later with the club fourth in the Championship.
6.55pmSouthgate has been in and around the national setup since his dismissal, though. He spent over a year as the FA's Head of Elite Development before leaving that role in July 2012.
6.57pmHe was given the chance to manage the U21s after a dismal display in this summer's European Championships ultimately resulted in Stuart Pearce's dismissal from the post. Pearce had been in the job for six years and guided England to an Under-21 semi-final and final, so Southgate has big shoes to fill.
6.59pmHis first task will be to turn around the ailing fortunes of England's youth teams. A 6-0 drubbing of the auld enemy Scotland in their last match went some way to banishing the memories of the summer, but their performance in the Under-21 European Championships was an unmitigated disaster.
7.01pmEngland lost all three of their group games to finish bottom of their section having needed a playoff win against Serbia to even qualify for the tournament. They kicked off with a 1-0 loss at the hands of Italy, which was not exactly an embarrassing defeat, but followed that up by losing 3-1 to Norway and 1-0 to host nation Israel.
7.03pmThe performances resulted in the quality of English football at youth level being questioned, and the pessimism surrounding the future was exacerbated by another poor showing from England in the Under-20 World Cup. They drew their opening game 2-2 with Iraq having been leading 2-0 until late on, while a subsequent draw against Chile and 2-0 defeat to Egypt saw then crash out in the group stage.
7.05pmHowever, you're only as good as your last game - as the cliche goes - and England's last game was certainly very good. The likes of Jonjo Shelvey, Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley all got on the scoresheet as England brushed aside Scotland with a 6-0 win.
7.07pmFor all the negativity that has surrounded England U21s over the summer, tonight is a chance for a new start. It is their first match in Group One of the 2015 European Championship qualifying, and they have a new manager in the dugout. Optimism is certainly high.
7.09pmMoldova, on the other hand, have already played twice in the group, picking up one win and one loss so far. That win came in their last outing as they beat San Marino U21s 3-0 in what can't really be described as a clash of the titans.
7.11pmThe defeat came last time they faced a British team as Wales U21s emerged with a 1-0 victory. Wales U21s are considered to be a fair amount weaker than England's, so the visitors will not be expecting too much from tonight's match.
7.13pmThat tally of three points from two games puts Moldova third in the group, above Wales on goal difference but behind the likes of Finland U21s and Lithuania U21s. Finland look like being England's closest challengers for qualification, but they have already drawn with Lithuania so it would be a big shock if England were not to win this group fairly comfortably.
7.15pmThe man opposite debutant Gareth Southgate in the dugout this evening is Alexandr Curteian. He has been in charge of the Moldova U21s since 2011, and is a former international player himself having won 28 caps for the senior side.
7.17pmTEAM NEWS: There was some speculation as to how Southgate was going to approach his first game in charge, and his team selection has answered many of those questions. West Brom's Saido Berahino will make his debut up front, and he will be supported by the likes of Wilfried Zaha and Nathan Redmond. Southampton duo Luke Shaw and James Ward-Prowse will also make their debuts tonight.
7.21pmNotable absences include the likes of Raheem Sterling and Ross Barkley, both of whom have been named in the senior squad for their two upcoming matches.
7.23pmOf the players selected, however, Zaha and Redmond are the ones to keep a close eye on. Both can make something happen within the blink of an eye and are the type of exciting wingers that can light up otherwise dull games. They both have a direct style and will look to attack at every available opportunity.
7.25pmIt will also be interesting to see Berahino in international action for the first time. The 20-year-old is enjoying a growing reputation at West Brom and showed that he has a keen eye for goal with a hat-trick against Newport County in the League Cup last week. Tonight will cap off a superb 10 days for him after he made his first Premier League appearance at the weekend as well.
7.27pmIn defence, Andre Wisdom unsurprisingly gets the nod having been named captain this week. The Liverpool defender looks to have a bright future in the game and has all the attributes to become a formidable player. Added to that, he is also versatile, switching between right-back and centre-back with apparent ease. Shaw is also enjoying a growing reputation at Southampton and, in a week that saw a former Saints left-back move to Real Madrid for an eye-watering £86m, Shaw will be hoping that an international debut is the start of a similar journey for him.
7.29pmIf Moldova manage to get past the back four of England, they will still have Jack Butland to beat. The Stoke City man is the most experienced player in the starting lineup today having made 12 appearances for the Under-21s, and it surely won't be long before he begins to get regular call-ups to the senior squad.
7.31pmPlenty of promise and quality throughout this England side tonight, then, and they should have enough about them to see off the threat of Moldova. However, while Southgate was not in charge for the summer debacle of the European Championships, he will be making sure that the players who were involved don't make similar mistakes. They can't afford to be complacent this evening.
7.33pmNext up for England after this match is a trip to Finland to face the current joint-group leaders. Tonight's game may give us an idea of how England stack up against Finland, as Moldova lost 1-0 to Wales who, in turn, were beaten 5-1 by Finland last month. Moldova's next match will be a repeat of that game against Wales, although they will have a day of extra rest as they don't play until Tuesday.
7.35pmPREDICTION: Right, we're 10 minutes from kickoff at Reading's Madejski Stadium, which means that it is time for a match prediction! England may have had a tough time of things this summer, but they are embarking on a new, exciting era under Southgate and I can't see past them for the win today. I'm going to go for 4-0 to the hosts.
7.37pmThe last time that these two sides met was back in 2006, and it was a notable occasion for a certain Theo Walcott. The winger had only recently signed for Arsenal and had just come back from a World Cup in which he didn't see any action, but made his international debut for the Under-21s and marked it by becoming the youngest player to ever score for the England U21s.
7.39pmWalcott's goal was a rare header for the winger, and it comes from a Leighton Baines cross - proof that the U21s can be a fertile breeding ground for future internationals.
7.41pmOn the other hand, England's other goalscorer that day was David Nugent. While his eventual senior international record of a goal a game may sound like one every striker would kill for, when you see that the statistics actually show one goal in one game, it becomes less impressive - especially if you were to see the goal in question.
7.43pmThat match eventually ended 2-2, which should act as a warning to England not to expect an easy ride tonight. Serghei Alexeev and Alexandr Zislis got the goals for Moldova, including an 86th equaliser.
7.45pmThat is all in the past, however, and today is all about the future. It is a new qualification campaign with a new manager at the helm for England tonight.
1 minKICKOFF: England get us underway in this one. This hasn't exactly drawn a full house at the Madejski.
3 minMoldova have an early free kick in a good position after Chalobah brought down Dima around 25 yards from goal. It would have to be some strike, but it is within shooting range.
4 minDima opts against going up and over the wall, instead choosing to surprise Butland by shooting towards the goalkeeper's side. Butland dives back across having started to make his way to the other side, but the ball flashes a few yards wide.
5 minYELLOW CARD! It's an early card to give out, the referee had little choice. Bogdan came in with a very heavy and very late tackle on Stones, and rightly goes into the book.
7 minEngland are struggling to keep possession for any length of time at the moment. Moldova have not been able to capitalise, but they have certainly seen more of the ball than they would have expected to so far.
9 minMoldova have set up defensively in the early stages, which is no real surprise to be honest. What is a surprise is how readily England are misplacing passes at the moment.
10 minSAVE! A first sighter for Berahino in his fledging international career, and it isn't a bad effort from the striker. His first touch takes him away from his marker, but his shot is straight at the keeper and there is no-one on hand to put the rebound in.
12 minCHANCE! That is the best chance of the game so far, and it was almost the captain leading by example. Redmond's cross found Wisdom, who headed his effort back across goal forcing a very good stop from Koshelev.
14 minGOAL! England U21s 1-0 Moldova U21s (Saido Berahino)
14 minWhat a way to mark your full international debut! Berahino turned his man inside the box - although whether he meant his first touch or not is up for debate - before smashing his effort into the roof of the net from a tight angle. The keeper could perhaps look at himself having been beaten at his near post, but such was the power on the shot that he didn't have much of a chance.
16 minSAVE! Wow, what a strike from Shaw. The ball bobbles out to the full-back on the corner of the penalty area, and he shows great technique to keep his half volley down and force a flying save from the keeper.
18 minThis is much better from England now. After a slow start they are beginning to dominate this game and, if things carry on like this, Moldova will be in for a long night.
19 minRedmond looks very bright whenever he gets the ball. He scored his first Premier League goal at the weekend and seems determined to continue his goalscoring form tonight. This time he cuts in from the left and is almost in Zaha's area on the right of the field when he eventually slices a shot high and wide.
21 minSAVE! More good play from Redmond as he shows strength and pace in equal measure to beat his man down the right. He then cuts inside and gets a shot away, but it is straight at the keeper.
23 minMoldova just can't get out of their own half at the moment. It is all England, and they look capable of creating something every time they come forward. It has been a very promising opening 20 minutes or so to the Gareth Southgate era.
25 minLovely footwork from Zaha to escape the attentions of three defenders and launch an attack for England. He then plays it inside to Carroll, but the attack eventually breaks down. That is our first real glimpse of the skills that Zaha possess, though.
27 minDima doesn't stand a chance up front for Moldova at the moment. The visitors are getting deeper and deeper as the half goes on and any balls towards the striker are long, aimless clearances. He has been very isolated so far and I feel that it will on get worse for the striker.
29 minEngland are enjoying most of their success down the wings so far. Berahino in the middle has been surrounded by two or three Moldovans throughout, which is allowing Redmond and Zaha to get one-on-ones with their full-backs, who they have the beating of at the moment.
31 minAfter an exciting spell around 10 minutes ago, this one has just entered a bit of a lull in the last few minutes. England are still controlling the ball, but the likes of Redmond and Zaha aren't getting as much space to make things happen.
33 minCHANCE! That should be 2-0! Chalobah shows good vision to slip a clever pass into the box when everyone is expecting him to shoot. Carroll is the recipient, but panics and goes for power when he merely needed to stroke it into the corner. The keeper does well to tip it over, but Carroll should have scored.
34 minCHANCE! Koshelev has single-handedly kept the score at 1-0 so far. From the resulting corner of Carroll's chance, Wisdom rises highest and powers a header towards goal, but the Moldova keeper saves before collecting at the second attempt.
36 minSouthgate's message from the touchline at the moment is to be patient - the chances will come. Those are wise words from the new manager as England are completely in control of this one and don't really need to force anything. The chances and goals will surely come.
37 minCHANCE! Superb from Redmond as he waltzes past three challenges and into the box. His last touch takes it onto his right foot which makes the angle for a shot tighter and, sure enough, he fires his effort into the side netting.
39 minMoldova have one of their best moments of the match so far as a long ball over the top finds Dima behind the defence, but the striker's touch lets him down.
40 minPENALTY SHOUT! Zaha is baffled at how he has not been awarded a penalty here. Redmond is again instrumental as he slides a through ball to the United winger, who takes it past his man inside the box before being brought down. The referee says no, and the only reason I can think why is because he may not have recovered the ball on the other side. I have certainly seen those given, though.
42 minNot quite sure what that was about from Chalobah. He has a simple enough pass on to Keane, but instead hoofs it out of play and almost out of the stadium, giving Moldova an attacking throw in.
44 minCHANCE! Berahino has found chances limited tonight due to the tight marking, but this is as good a sight of goal as he has had so far. He gets a glancing header to a cross, but he wanted more on that as he sent it wide.
45 minThere will be just the one minute of added time at the end of this half.
8.35pmSo far so good for England as they go into the break with a 1-0 lead having utterly dominated that half. In truth, it could and perhaps should be more than a single-goal lead, but Southgate has been stressing the importance of patience from the touchlines and more chances should come England's way if they carry on doing what they have been doing.
8.37pmIt was Saido Berahino who got England's goal on his full international debut, and it was a good strike as well. He turned his man inside the box before smashing it past the keeper at the near post. The West Brom youngster hasn't had too many more sights of goal since opening the scoring, but he looks like a lively player who could take a chance whenever it pops up. He reminds me a little of Jermain Defoe in that respect.
8.39pmEngland's best moments so far have come down the flanks, where Zaha and, in particular, Nathan Redmond have really been enjoying themselves. The latter was the best player on the park by some distance in that first half and he looks to be an exciting prospect for the future. His direct style and close control is really causing the Moldovan defence a lot of problems.
8.41pmFrom a defensive point of view, England have had very little to do. Dima has made a couple of bright pieces of movement, but nothing to worry the likes of Wisdom, Keane and Butland. It speaks volumes that Wisdom has had more of an impact at the other end of the field, coming close with two powerful headers.
8.43pmMoldova's chances look slim going into the second half, but they will be happy that it remains just 1-0. With that scoreline they are still in the match and, the longer it stays like that, the more their belief will grow. It just takes a set piece or a mistake to create a goal, and Moldova will still have ambitions of coming away from this match with a point.
8.45pmIt would need an almighty change in fortune for the visitors for that to happen, however. England will be keen to create a bit of breathing space in the scoreline, but they won't be unduly worried as they dominated that first half. The chances and goals will come if the second half is anything like the first.
46 minKICKOFF: No changes from either side as Moldova get us back underway. Can they pull off a major shock in this second half and get themselves back into the match?
48 minDima buys a free kick just inside his own half, but that just goes to show how defensive Moldova are playing already in this second half. No red shirts were within 10 yards of the striker there.
49 minCHANCE! A brilliant through ball cuts the defence wide open and Redmond races on to it. He only has the keeper to beat but goes for power instead of placement, and the keeper makes a good save.
50 minCHANCE! Moments later, Zaha has a chance from the opposite wing. The United man cuts inside onto his right foot before powering an effort goalwards that the keeper gets a good body behind. Either side of him and that would be 2-0. The ball is eventually pumped back into the box and Berahino rises highest but puts his header over the bar.
52 minRedmond shows more great skill as he takes the ball past two defenders before driving into the box. He perhaps tries to go past one too many, however, and the ball eventually runs into the arms of the keeper.
54 minZaha does very well to hook a seemingly dead ball back into the box that Koshelev shovels behind with his legs. The linesman flags for a goal kick, claiming that the ball was already out when Zaha reached it, but his position shows that it was pure guesswork.
56 minBerahino looks for a pass inside and, seeing no potential suitors, turns back onto his left foot and flashes a powerful strike from a tight angle over the bar.
58 minIt seems a question of when rather than if England will get the second goal in this match. Southgate will be hoping that it comes sooner rather than later, though, because a 1-0 lead is never completely safe in football.
59 minRedmond shows good strength and tenacity to win the ball back in an advanced area before playing it inside to Ward-Prowse. The Southampton man squares it to Carroll, but his strike is sliced wide.
61 minIn truth, Moldova owe the fact that it is only 1-0 to their keeper today. Koshelev has made a number of important saves and has had to be in top form this evening. Had he not been in such good form, this could easily be five or six right now.
62 minLovely skill from Carroll as he pulls off a Marseilles roulette Zinedine Zidane style before shifting the ball onto his left foot and curling an effort straight at the keeper.
64 minSHOT! Shaw makes his way down the left before giving the ball over to Zaha, who immediately looks to cut inside before whipping a powerful, curling effort over the bar. He certainly caught that one well, but he just couldn't keep it down.
66 minENGLAND U21 SUB: Gareth Southgate's first sub as manager of England U21s sees Derby's highly-rated Will Hughes come on for Ward-Prowse, who has had a decent full debut. Hughes has been attracting attention from the likes of Liverpool for his performances in the Championship, so it will be good to see what impact he has in this match.
68 minCHANCE! Oh that is an absolute sitter for Zaha! Redmond whips a dangerous cross to the far post and Zaha is unmarked from less than six yards out. Even accounting for the fact that heading is not his strong point, it still should have been an easy finish for him, but the United man puts it over from very close range. They may not get a better chance than that!
69 minMOLDOVA SUB: Carp makes way to be replaced by Nicolae Milinceanu for Moldova. That is an attacking change for the visitors.
70 minCLOSE! Hughes almost has a perfect introduction less than five minutes after coming on. Berahino's run took the defender's away from the Derby man, but his shot from the edge of the box went just over the bar.
72 minFive of the current Moldova squad play their club football for Sherriff, who have been drawn in Tottenham's group in the Europa League. From what we've seen so far today, Spurs don't have much to worry about.
74 minHaving said that, Moldova have probably had their best few minutes of the match. The sub has given Dima a partner up front and he is no longer as isolated as he has been for the rest of the match.
75 minENGLAND U21 SUB: It has been a very good performance from Nathan Redmond, but he won't be able to cap it with a goal as Southgate hauls him off to bring on Sammy Ameobi.
77 minMoldova seem fairly content with a 1-0 defeat at the moment as they are packing their box with defensive players. For a recent corner they had all 11 men inside the box. Still, as long as it remains 1-0 Moldova still have an outside chance in this match.
79 minWHAT A MISS! Oh my goodness, I would have put a lot of money on Zaha's miss being the worst of the game but this has just beaten it! A lovely pass from Carroll finds Ameobi, who lifts another superb pass into Berahino in the middle. The West Brom striker's first touch takes it away from the keeper but then he misses the ball from three yards out in an open goal, allowing Bogdan to poke the ball over the bar. That and Zaha's miss are two of the worst you will see all season.
80 minYELLOW CARD! Prodan goes into the referee's notebook with 10 minutes to go, but I'm sure he won't be too upset as it further breaks up the match.
82 minSouthgate may just be getting a little uneasy now. His side are still in control of the match, but they should be out of sight by now, and the two sitters that they have missed could give Moldova a boost. If the visitors were to nick a late goal it would be one of the most undeserved draws I have seen, but England would only have themselves to blame for not killing this match off.
84 minCHANCE! Hughes is just a foot or so away from having an easy tap in! Berahino flashes a low cross right along the face of goal and Hughes just can't reach it in time at the back post.
86 minENGLAND U21 SUB: Just how will Berahino be feeling right now? He opened his international account on his debut with a well-taken goal but also committed one of the worst misses you will see this season. Still, he makes way to be replaced by Harry Kane knowing that, as things stand, he has scored the winner.
88 minSouthgate did say before the match that results were not necessarily the most important thing for him, and it's a good job that is the case! The performance from England has been good enough today, but they have lacked a killer instinct.
90 minMOLDOVA SUB: Dima has had a lonely match up front for Moldova today, and he makes way to be replaced by Sergiu Patic.
90+1 minWe will have three minutes of added time at the end of this match.
90+2 minWHAT A MISS! This is unbelievable! England have had three of the clearest chances that you could have wished for in this match, and they haven't scored any of them. This time a lovely move results in Hughes picking up a backheel inside the box. The keeper is out of the game and Hughes only has a defender to beat on the line, but his power effort is nodded behind when he had the rest of the goal to aim at. I'm not sure whether that is a grimace or a wry smile on the face of Southgate, but he can't quite believe what has gone on here.
9.38pmThat certainly is a scoreline that does not tell the full story of the match. England were never in any danger of losing this one but they will be baffled as to how it only ended 1-0. Gareth Southgate gets off to a winning start as Under-21 manager and England also get off to a winning start in their quest to qualify for the 2015 European Championships.
9.40pmBerahino's overriding memories of tonight will be positives ones as he scored the winner for England U21s on his full debut, but he will also be scratching his head at how he didn't end up with more than that solitary goal. He was faced with an open goal from no more than four yards out but missed the ball, which allowed the defence to clear it.
9.42pmBerahino was not the only one to miss a glorious chance either. Shortly before his effort Zaha headed over from very close range having been found by a very good Redmond cross, while Will Hughes also saw an effort cleared off the line late on when it was easier to score.
9.43pmStill, a win is a win and England will now turn their attention to Monday's match against Finland as they look to keep up their perfect start to the qualifying campaign. Moldova will be happy that they managed to keep the score down this evening and, even with the loss, will face Wales on Tuesday in good spirits.
9.45pmThat is just about all we have time for this evening. Thank you for joining Sports Mole for what was a night of mixed emotions for England. Their delight at having won the match will be tempered by the confusion of how they didn't win it by a lot more but, overall, Southgate will be happy with his first game in charge. I will leave you with our match report and be sure to stick around for reaction, which will be on site shortly. We will also have plenty more live action for you from the full internationals tomorrow. Until then, though, goodbye!