England reach Finals!
Tuesday, 12 October, 2010
Stuart Pearce's men secure place at Euro Finals next summer.
By Jamie Bradbury in Botosani
England are through to the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Denmark after a nervy 0-0 draw in Romania.
The result was enough to book Stuart Pearce and his men a place in next summer’s Finals after a 2-1 win in Norwich on Friday sent them to Botosani with something to defend.
Although Pearce was looking for a more comfortable passage through, all that will matter when they board the plane back to England is that they have more flights to look forward to in June.
It was a very warm afternoon and everyone in Botosani wanted a ticket for this one as the town crammed into the stadium with just the standing terrace behind one goal without any fans in. Even on the roofs of the surrounding buildings, fans lined up to watch. The only ones who wanted to leave were the 12 white doves released as the anthems finished.
And the game almost sparked into life with little more than 40 seconds played. Romanian midfielder Sabrin Sburlea tried his luck with a low swirling drive from 20 yards across Frank Fielding, but the 'keeper made a fine outstretched save to push around the post.
And it was a sign of things to come as the home side looked to impose themselves on England and get back level. Just like on Friday, they showed speed and aggression and didn’t allow the Three Lions to settle as they tried to get in behind Chris Smalling and Phil Jones.
Sburlea had another terrific chance and should have made England pay when he met Ioan Hora’s cross to the back post unmarked, but fired over.
After a nervy opening, Daniel Sturridge then had England’s first sight at goal after being set free by Danny Rose, but his shot, with his right foot, was pushed away.
The Chelsea man had another great opportunity to put England in front on the day. Fabrice Muamba and Jordan Henderson linked to break down a Romanian attack, before Danny Welbeck slipped the ball through to Sturridge in between the two central defenders. But his shot was easy for Silviu Lung.
Still with less than ten minutes gone the Romanian trickster Gabriel Torje had Fielding scrambling across the goal with a surprise, 35-yard strike that bounced just in front of the Blackburn stopper. He managed to beat it out low to his right, and the rebound was sent over the bar by Marius Alexe.
And Dinamo Bucharest prodigy Torje was prepared to have another go at Fielding, this time with a very audacious, almost ridiculous, attempt from all of 45 yards. Fielding was equal to it again, after another awkward bounce, as the ball found its way through a crowded box.
When Fabrice Muamba committed a foul on the edge of the England box two minutes after the break, Torje was again on the scene, but couldn’t beat the wall.
England’s attacking threat was often coming from Danny Rose on the left, and he flashed in two crosses, one landed on the roof of the net, the other was too far ahead of any fellow Lion, and drifted out of play.
Pearce made a tactical switch with half an hour left, replacing Sturridge with birthday boy Henri Lansbury to give a little more strength to the midfield.
The game was getting more tense by the minute as Romania still needed a goal to draw level. But with the away strike at Carrow Road a 1-0 victory would taken them to Denmark. And they weren’t frightened of shooting, unleashing efforts, some good, some bad, from all over. England themselves tried to maintain their passing approach but were not able to forge many openings.
When substitute Jack Cork did well to begin a quick England counter, Henderson rolled into the path of Sunderland team-mate Welbeck. As he looked to carry the ball into the box past last defender Marius Gaman, a superb tackle denied him a shot.
By now, the match was being played in the England half with the home side spurred forward by the whistles from the packed crowd.
When the Fourth Official held up the board to signal four minutes of stoppage time England were made to hold on even longer.
A final corner in the closing seconds looked ominous, but when the danger cleared, it was over.
England are heading to Denmark for a third successive European Finals for Stuart Pearce’s men.