CHICAGO: Kieran Richardson had a dream England debut on Saturday as the 20-year-old midfielder scored twice in a flattering 2-1 victory over the United States in an international friendly at Soldier Field.
Manchester United's Richardson had spent the last four months of the season on loan at West Bromwich Albion, helping them avoid relegation from the Premier League, and was given his England chance in the absence of a host of first team regulars.
He opened the scoring with only his second touch of the ball, a superb curling free kick after four minutes, and got his second from 15 metres just before halftime when he drilled a low shot past goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
It was a great feeling scoring two goals, said Richardson, who has only played a handful of games for United and admitted he was a bit nervous before the match. It's an honour to play for your country and I can't believe it really, he said.
Richardson was the first England player to score twice on his debut since striker David Johnson's double against Wales in a 2-2 draw at Wembley in May 1975.
The result was harsh on the United States, who wasted a series of chances amid poor England defending before eventually pulling one back through a Clint Dempsey header 11 minutes from time but the visitors held on to earn the victory.
England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, who has been criticised for taking a squad of tired players to America at the end of a long domestic season, was delighted with the victory.
All these young players showed that they want to play football, they are very hungry and they showed a lot of talent out there many of them, said the Swede. Playing with such a young team and winning is absolutely fantastic for us.
We made some mistakes but you cannot expect a young side to be perfect against a team ranked tenth in the world.
A lot of positives came out of this match. We saw a lot of young players who we hadn't seen at this level, and congratulations to Kieran Richardson for his goals.
It was a fantastic debut for a young player like that, scoring two goals in America. We practised (free kicks) yesterday and he almost scored in training and today he did it.
It's dangerous to make too much of it at this time, but I have been impressed with him.
Eriksson has more injuries to contend with, though, notably to stand-in captain Sol Campbell, who turned his ankle in the early stages and was replaced at halftime.
Richardson and Campbell's Arsenal team mate left back Ashley Cole also suffered slight hamstring strains and face fitness tests before England play Colombia in New Jersey tomorrow. Reuters