Lansbury makes his mark as Under-21s stroll home

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England Under-21s shrugged off the absence of manager Stuart Pearce to take another huge step towards qualification for Euro 2013 with a comfortable victory over Belgium in front of nearly 23,000 in Middlesbrough.

With Pearce taking charge of the seniors at Wembley, Brian Eastick guided the team to a victory that means Belgium can no longer catch them at the top of Group Eight, while Norway would need to win their remaining four games and have England drop points in their last two.

Henri Lansbury opened the scoring with a stunning cross-cum-shot from the wing, before Stephen Caulker headed in a second in the 35th minute.

When Lansbury added a third seven minutes into the second half, the three points were effectively wrapped up long before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s stoppage-time penalty.

Lansbury had flashed a header wide from Martin Kelly’s deep cross before opening the scoring in stunning fashion in the ninth minute.

There appeared little danger as he stood deep on the left wing but he fired the ball in and left goalkeeper Kaen Casteels rooted to the spot as it sailed into the far corner.

Marvin Sordell was inches away from a Jordan Henderson cross moments later while Zaha saw a powerful left-footed effort turned away for a corner.

Ziguy Badibanga sent a dangerous ball across the face of goal but England quickly turned it into a chance of their own as they raced to the other end where Lansbury fired over.

It took a sliding tackle from Laurens De Bock to prevent Oxlade-Chamberlain breaking free, but from the resulting corner Caulker headed in after Craig Dawson nodded the ball back towards goal.

England added a third seven minutes into the second half when the ball fell for Wilfried Zaha on the right side of the penalty area and he drilled in a low ball for Lansbury to lash home.

Belgium had their best chance in response, with Ziguy Badibanga’s through ball finding the run of Gianni Bruno to get in behind the defence, but he slid his shot wide of the far post.

They had another chance after Kelly was dispossessed on the right, but Jack Butland was out quickly to turn Nill De Pauw’s effort wide.

Lansbury was denied the chance of a hat-trick as he was withdrawn 17 minutes from time before Oxlade-Chamberlain won a soft penalty which he drilled home himself with the last kick of the game.