Welbeck levels as England pinch point

HERNING - A late Danny Welbeck equaliser gave England a share of the spoils in their European Under-21 Championships opener against Spain on Sunday.

Defenders Kyle Walker and Chris Smalling were the shining lights for Stuart Pearce's side on a testing night, with Spain dominating large periods of the play.

Spain well and truly had the upper hand in the first half and took the lead with an Ander Herrera header in the 14th minute, though television replays suggested the ball may have struck him on the hand.

England clawed their way back into the game in the second half and both sides created several chances, before Manchester United's Welbeck fired an 88th-minute equaliser past David De Gea, after good work down the right flank from Tottenham starlet Walker.

The match had been billed as a meeting of two of the tournament's early favourites, but it was Spain who were well on top during the early exchanges, with their slick and composed passing game leaving England chasing shadows for the first half hour, with Thiago Alcantara and Javi Martinez the lead tormentors.

Yet it was from a set-piece that the Spanish opened the scoring, with Herrera forcing the ball over the line at the far post after a flick-on from the unmarked Martinez.

England improved towards the end of the first half, and could have gone in level had Danny Sturridge made contact with a dangerous Danny Rose cross.

Despite Stuart Pearce's side finding their feet as the game wore on, it was Spain who still looked more likely to find the net, with young Blackburn keeper Frank Fielding at full stretch to turn a deflected Herrera shot around the post.

Just as the game looked to be slipping from England's grasp, fullback Walker - who spent the second half of the season on loan at Aston Villa - found space down the England right, cut inside and threaded the ball through to Welbeck - himself on loan at Sunderland this season.

Again, television replays suggested the goal should have been ruled-out, with Welback one of three England players appearing to stand in an offside position as Walker played the ball.

Yet the goal stood, and England grabbed a point when defeat had looked all but a certainty for most of the evening.

Earlier, the Czech Republic beat Ukraine thanks to two second-half goals from Boreck Dockel.

The Slovan Liberec midfielder fired home an exquisite first-time shot to give the Czechs the lead in the 49th minute before slotting home a second goal seven minutes later.

Ukraine pulled one back through substitute Biliy late in the game but the Czechs held on to take the three points and top Group B after the first round of matches.