England 1-0 Moldova
England Under-21s got their Euro qualifying campaign off to a winning start thanks to a debut goal from Saido Berahino.
The West Bromwich Albion striker broke the deadlock in the early stages, but frustratingly for England, that proved to be the last of the goals and despite a flurry of chances the hosts could not add to their early goal.
Moldova's goalkeeper Alexei Koshelev was in inspired form throughout the contest, denying the Three Lions on a number of occasions after being beaten by Berahino's unstoppable strike on 13 minutes.
New Head Coach Gareth Southgate will be pleased with the performance and expression shown by his side, if not a little frustrated with the number of opportunities spurned.
Koshelev was put to work right from the off by producing two smart saves in as many minutes, firstly from Berahino’s angled shot and then from Andre Wisdom’s header after crosses from Wilf Zaha and Nathan Redmond respectively.
However, in the 13th minute he was powerless to prevent England from taking the lead. Tom Carroll slipped a pass into the area for Berahino who smashed a shot past Koshelev and into the roof of the net.
It was then Carroll’s turn to test the ‘keeper in the 32nd minute, as Nathaniel Chalobah cleverly dummied a pass into the box for the QPR loanee, only to see his left-footed effort tipped over the bar.
Moments later, Redmond had the crowd on their feet as his darting run into the box took him past two defenders before his low shot hit the side-netting.
But despite England’s first-half dominance, it could easily have been all-square just a minute before the break.
Ivan Prodan’s inviting free-kick into the area was nodded back across goal by Catalin Carp, but with no-one there to apply the finishing touch England avoided what would have been an unlikely equaliser.
Koshelev was England’s nemesis again in the opening exchanges of the second half, parrying Redmond’s shot after the winger has latched onto a pass from Zaha.
The stopper was in the thick of the action again less than a minute later, as a well-struck shot from Zaha was heading for the back of the net until it struck Koshelev in the face after 48 minutes.
The Manchester United winger could have doubled the lead in the 68th minute when he met Redmond’s cross in the six-yard box but could only guide his header over the bar.
It was then Berahino’s turn to miss the target as he found the goal at his mercy after a neat pass into the box from sub Sammy Ameobi. He flicked it past Koshelev, but became tangled with Constantin Bogdan on the line and the chance was gone.
England began to push for a killer second goal in the dying stages but were again left frustrated as sub Will Hughes saw his close range shot somehow deflected over the bar by Ivan Prodan.
And the impressive Luke Shaw had a final attempt in stoppage time, with his sweet left-footer rising just over the bar.
But with three points on the board for their first game and some lively performances to reflect on, Southgate will be quietly satisfied as England take their first step towards qualification for the Czech Republic in two years' time.
England: 1 Jack Butland, 2 John Stones, 3 Luke Shaw, 4 Nathaniel Chalobah, 5 Andre Wisdom (c ), 6 Michael Keane, 7 Nathan Redmond (17 Sammy Ameobi, 75), 8 James Ward-Prowse (16 Will Hughes, 64), 9 Saido Berahino (18 Harry Kane, 86), 10 Tom Carroll, 11 Wilfried Zaha.
Subs not used: 12 Todd Kane, 13 George Long, 14 Jack Robinson, 15 Eric Dier.
Head Coach: Gareth Southgate
Goals: Saido Berahino (13).
Moldova: Alexei Koshelev, 3 Maxim Focsa, 4 Ivan Prodan, 5 Constantin Bogdan, 6 Vasile Jardan, 7 Eugen Zasaviitchi (c), 8 Vadim Rata, 9 Gheorge Anton, 10 Catalin Carp (11 Nicolae Milinceanu, 67) 13 Igor Dima (16 Sergiu Patic, 90) 14 Iurie Mirza.
Subs not used: 12 Cristian Avram, 2 Constantin Turcan, 15 Valeriu Tiron, 17 Sergiu Matei, 18 Alexandr Bolsacov.
Manager: Alexander Curtianu
Booking: Constantin Bogdan (5 mins).
Referee: Nikola Dabanovic
Assistant referees: Veslin Radunovic & Jovica Tatar.
Fourth Official: Milos Saovic