VIDEO: Smalling's dream strike
Saturday, 09 October, 2010
Man Utd defender reflects on a goal and first leg win versus Romania.
by Jamie Bradbury
Click here to watch FATV's video interview with Chris and Jordan Henderson.
Chris Smalling scored a ‘dream’ winning goal for England’s Under-21s on Friday night to give them a vtial 2-1 lead at the halfway stage of their Euro 2011 play-off encounter with Romania in Norwich.
The Three Lions took the lead after an hour of the game in front of the largest crowd at Carrow Road for 18 years, when Jordan Henderson smashed home a dipping, 25-yard volley.
Romania levelled through fortunate circumstances when a counter-attack ended with Ioan Hora’s cross being deflected past Frank Fielding and into the England net.
But Stuart Pearce’s men kept pushing for the advantage and the Manchester United defender smashed home from close-range in his eighth game for the Under-21s after Daniel Sturridge’s knockdown was flicked on by Jack Wilshere for Smalling to apply the finish.
“It’s always nice to have that winning goal," he told FATV. "A lot of players dream about that and we knew it was going to be a big night tonight. We got that goal and it’s going to lead us well into Tuesday.
“We are only halfway through what is hopefully going to be that road to Denmark.
“We knew from analysing them over the last few days that it was going to be a tough game and there wasn’t going to be many goals in it and tonight proved that. They haven’t conceded many goals lately, but we haven’t either.
“We had the crowd behind us, it was a sell-out and a great atmosphere for us lads to play in front of. Hopefully we can keep the crowd quiet on Tuesday and come away with a positive result.”
Smalling’s goal gives England the narrow lead for the second leg in Botosani on Tuesday, but one which he is confident they can protect. This season he has formed a formidable partnership with Blackburn Rovers centre-back Phil Jones that has seen them concede just once, and the 21-year-old former Fulham and Maidstone man believes they are always improving.
“He’s been excellent to play with. I’ve played alongside Micah (Richards) for a few of the games and Jonah has come in and done really well. That was the first time we’ve conceded a goal since we’ve been playing together, and it was a bit fortunate too.
“But hopefully we can get that solid base going again and keep a clean sheet in Romania on Tuesday.”
He continued: “In the last four or five games the team has really come together and the manager has stressed that. We’ve bonded well and stayed consistent. Hopefully that will pull us together as we’re all striving for that end goal.
“Playing in games like this can only stand us in good stead and will help us if we reached the tournament in the summer. “
And the flourishing team spirit in the England camp has been evident all season, particularly in the wins over Portugal and Lithuania last month, and Friday’s victory against their play-off rivals.
Now a trip to the northern Romanian town of Botosani stands between England and a place in next summer’s European Championship in Denmark, and Smalling believes his team mates are prepared for what is in store for them on Tuesday.
“We’ve been to a few intimidating places in Europe in the group stages, and when you go into different stadiums the atmosphere is completely different to what you’d get at home," he added.
“When we went to Portugal last month we had to win that game as well, so that will give us a lot of confidence for when we travel to Romania.”