Mark Noble played a captain's role as England survived a sending off to make a winning start to the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Sweden on Monday night.
The Young Lions were 2-1 winners against Finland in Halmstad, having had a great start when Lee Cattermole scored on 15 minutes. The Scandinavian nation had fought their way back into the contest with a Tim Sparv penalty just after the half-hour when Michael Mancienne was dismissed for a denying a scoring opportunity. With Noble leading the fightback, Micah Richards rose to head in James Milner's cross on 53 minutes.
England will be relieved to have taken all three points with the might of Spain, on Thursday, and Germany to come in their remaining Group B fixtures. The top two in the section will progress to the semi-finals with the host nation, Belarus, Italy and Serbia in Group A. Mancienne's sending off means an instant ban - raising the prospects of James Tomkins, who came on for Richards in the 89th minute, getting a chance in the games to come.
Tomkins made an instant impression with a scrambled clearance as Finland threatened during four minutes of added time. It was his first competitive appearance at this level, having made his U21 bow a week ago in the 7-0 friendly win against Azerbaijan. Noble, meanwhile, is one of four players in the England squad who helped the Young Lions reach the 2007 semi-finals, before losing on penalties to the Netherlands.