Noble inspires England win

Mark Noble's England hold the advantage over Jack Collison's Wales after a 3-2 victory in the first leg of their European Under-21 Championship play-off on Friday night.

The 21-year-old Noble was involved in all three England goals in Cardiff and, with the return to come at Villa Park on Tuesday night, the Young Lions will feel confident of progressing to next summer's U21 Euro in Sweden. Collison, who only turned 20 last week, was an industrious performer in a more withdrawn midfield role than his club-mate and played his part in a rousing contest.

Wales took the lead on 13 minutes through Simon Church only for Noble to inspire an England fightback. His sublime flicked pass led to Wales conceding a corner and from it, David Wheater headed in the equaliser on 19 minutes. Then, a quarter of an hour later, Noble slid a superb through-ball for Adam Johnson to collect and then put the visitors in front.

Church ensured parity with a well-taken second just before the interval but Noble was not finished. His excellent run and cross on the right wing led to Gabriel Agbonlahor back-heeling in a delightful winner just after the hour for Stuart Pearce's side. Both West Ham United players got the full 90 minutes, a real plus for Collison after his recent knee trouble.