Noble takes the plaudits

Mark Noble was rightly named man of the match by for his performance in the 2-1 win against Finland but he was simply focusing on a job well done when reflecting on opening night of the 2009 UEFA European Under-21 Championship.

Although Lee Cattermole and Micah Richards scored the goals, and James Milner was a constant menace, skipper Noble stood out to the UEFA observers for his industrious work-rate, neat passing and positive play - especially when his team were down to ten men and rocking against a lively Finnish side.

The West Ham United midfielder admitted England were caught out early on in Halmstad. "The conditions made it hard," he said. "We have been playing on wet pitches for the last two weeks and zinging the ball around for fun. Today we got here and the pitch was dry and it was really hot. I think it suited them better than us.

"We are delighted to get the win," Noble added, fully conscious that the Group B opener was not the most scintillating of football matches to watch. "We go back to the hotel and prepare for Thursday [against Spain]. No matter how we did it, no one will care that we weren't playing Barcelona football. We won the game and that's all that matters.

"We have put some work in today. We have grafted for the last two weeks as well and we deserved thatt. It doesn't matter how you win, that's tournament football. You get the three points on the board and let the other game pan out. We have got a tough game against Spain on Thursday."

Noble said he did not see the coming together that sparked the "unlucky" Michael Mancienne's dismissal and paved the way for Finland to equalise from the spot through Tim Sparv. "A few balls over the top were causing us trouble, with the balls light and the grass dry it was tough on the defenders. They dug in so well.

"Michael is a fantastic player and will be bounce back from that no doubt. Micah came up with a great header, we kept on going and deserved it."