The England Women's U19 side beat Romania 3-0 to set up a crunch qualifying clash with Wales on Saturday.
England 3-0 Romania
UEFA European Under-19 Championship
Round One Qualifying
The Shay, Halifax Town FC
30 September 2004
Late goals by substitute Chantelle Parry and striker Lianne Sanderson sealed England’s second qualifying group victory to set up a Saturday clash with Wales to decide the winners of the four-nation, first round tournament in Yorkshire.
Though well below their best England were in control from the moment winger Dani Bird gave them a sixth minute lead, but it took until Parry’s last minute strike and a stoppage time goal by Sanderson to finally kill off the hard working Romanians.
Earlier in the day Wales had also gained a second victory, beating Bulgaria 5-0, meaning that both home nations will progress to the second round irrespective of Saturday’s result.
England will head into the last day encounter as group leaders due to a marginally better goal difference, but in order to win the group they will have to produce a more thorough performance than their display against Romania.
Coach Mo Marley said: "It was disappointing because we had a game plan but didn’t stick to it. We got frustrated and lost our discipline, and in the first half we were sloppy and untidy.
"We’d made it clear to the players that we knew it was going to be hard, but it wasn’t until half-time that they believed it. We were far better in the second half though, and although our extra goals came late we deserved them because of our pressure."
It seemed that it would be plain sailing for England when Bird opened the scoring, the Fulham winger floating in a deep free-kick which slipped through the hands of goalkeeper Lavinia Lefterica and into the roof of the net.
But though they maintained the upper hand after taking the lead, Marley’s team did not go close to scoring a second goal until Everton midfielder Amy Kane’s 30th minute free-kick was deflected on to the near post.
Captain Katie Holtham and Birmingham City midfielder Karen Carney then both missed chances when well placed inside the penalty area as England completed a frustrating first half.
It was a similar story after the break, with England retaining control but an increasingly confident Romanian side defending stoutly while always on the lookout for breakaway attacks.
Arsenal striker Sanderson almost added a second goal just after the hour, striking a 12 yard shot which was well saved by Lefterica, then Bird sent a 70th minute angled drive against the near post.
As the pressure mounted Bristol Rovers midfielder Holtham had a close range effort cleared off the line, then Sanderson was denied by Lefterica’s brave, point blank save in the 81st minute.
Marley’s team continued to press for a second goal but they had to wait until the final minute, when Parry’s rising drive from 15 yards rocketed into the roof of the Romanian net.
And three minutes into stoppage time they gave the scoreline a more realistic look when Sanderson turned to direct a 20 yard shot into the bottom corner and edge England ahead of Wales at the top of the group.
Now they meet their UK neighbours in the group decider and Wales manager Andy Beattie said: "The pressure’s off us now we’ve qualified for the next round so we’ll have a good crack at it on Saturday.
"England will be favourites and it might be a bit like our game against Bulgaria, only this time with us doing the defending and aiming to hit on the break. The girls are looking forward to it though, and we’ll give it our best shot."
Marley said: "We’re happy to have qualified for the next round but we want to continue our unbeaten run and finish at the top of the group. We’re about to come up against a tough Welsh team and it will be an interesting game.
"Our players are familiar with the Welsh girls so there won’t be a surprise element, but to get the result we want we’ll have to go into the game totally focused and keep it that way for 90 minutes."
Romania: Lefterica; F. Pop, Rus, Lincu, Cioran; C. Pop (Stanciu, 90), Costas, Oprea, Sarghe (Smarandescu, 85): Ilies, Laiu (Sipos, 71).
Subs not used: Ganea, Gavrila, Rosioru, Cosocaru.
England: Hobbs; Clough, Poole, Kemp, Evans; Holtham, Carney (Scheuber, 77), Kane; Smith (Houghton, 54), Sanderson, Bird (Parry,m 71).
Subs not used: Telford, Emmanuel, Lawrence, Horwood.
Goals: Bird 6, Parry 90, Sanderson 90+3
Referee: Ms C. Beck (Germany).