England’s U21 Euro dreams were shattered on Friday, as they slipped to defeat against Romania following more late drama in Cesena.
Aidy Boothroyd’s side came into the game knowing they needed nothing less than a victory to stay in the competition, after two late goals saw their lead turned around in their opening game against France on Tuesday.
- UEFA European U21 Championship Finals
- Group C
- Friday 21 June 2019
- Cesena, Italy
- Live on Sky Sports
And while the final score here doesn’t fully reflect the pattern of the game, as England dominated possession and territorial advantage, it was a similar story again as individual errors were punished to allow Romania a route to victory.
It all unfolded in the final quarter of the game, with six goals coming in 17 thrilling minutes as the contest swung back and forth before the ruthless nature of international football at this level laid England bare in a painful conclusion.
Twice, Boothroyd's men had bounced back within a minute from the setback of going behind via goals from Demarai Gray and Tammy Abraham, with ambitions of then going on to find a winner.
But a late brace from substitute Florinel Coman, after earlier goals from the impressive pair of George Puscas and Ianis Hagi, left Boothroyd and his players floored at the final whistle.
Romania had actually started the game well, playing at a frenetic pace in the heat of Cesena. They should’ve been ahead twice in the first six minutes, when Dean Henderson made a smart save to deny Hagi’s angled drive before Andrei Ivan wastefully smashed a guilt-edge chance wide from close range after he was picked out in the middle.
Henderson was then called upon again to save from Dennis Man after Romania’s quick break saw Puscas and Hagi set him up in the box.
As the game wore on, Romania’s energy levels began to sap and just seconds before the break, Mount’s powerful low shot from outside the area forced captain Ionut Radu into a good save with the rebound scrambled clear ahead of Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s follow-up.
England began the second half on top too, and Kieran Dowell’s header back across goal from Maddison’s corner was headed off the line.
Substitute Phil Foden, on for the unfortunate injured half-time sub Ryan Sessegnon, then forced Radu to push his low shot onto the post as England began to up the ante.
Maddison stung the hands of Radu with another effort, which was parried out to Gray on the right. He fizzed the ball back into the six-yard box where Calvert-Lewin couldn’t quite get a touch on it in front of goal.
But it was Romania who took the lead with 15 minutes to go when substitute Coman side-stepped Jonjoe Kenny in the box before he was tripped by the right-back to give the referee an easy decision. Puscas stepped up to calmly slot home the spot kick, sending Henderson the wrong way in the process.
The Young Lions struck straight back within a minute, with Gray collecting the ball on the left before cutting inside and firing a shot at goal which Radu’s fingertips couldn’t keep out.
As England pushed for what they thought might be a winner, Radu denied Calvert-Lewin with a stunning save to tip his header over the bar before the Everton man headed inches over from the resulting corner.
England were caught cold moments later, when a long ball was allowed to bounce and as Fikayo Tomori missed his clearance under pressure from Puscas, it allowed Hagi to collect and effortlessly skip past the Chelsea defender before firing a fierce shot past Henderson.
But again, the Young Lions bounced back within a minute as Mount’s chipped ball into Abraham saw the substitute control on his chest and shoot home on the turn to spark English hopes again.
Those hopes were swiftly dashed when Coman's ambitious shot on goal was fumbled by Henderson, slipping past the otherwise impeccable goalkeeper at his near post to restore Romania's lead at 3-2 as everyone else tried to keep up.
There was still time for more drama too, as Abraham crashed a firm header against the bar which would've seen it all square again going into stoppage time.
It was Coman who had the final say though, as his speculative volley from distance flew past a stunned Henderson to make it 4-2 and leave England’s players floored at the final whistle.
England: 1 Dean Henderson (Manchester United), 3 Jay Dasilva (Chelsea), 5 Fikayo Tomori (Chelsea), 4 Jake Clarke-Salter (Chelsea) (c), 12 Jonjoe Kenny (Schakle, loan from Everton), 6 Kieran Dowell (Everton), 7 Demarai Gray (Leicester City), 8 James Maddison (Leicester City) 17 Harvey Barnes (Leicester City), 18 Mason Mount (Chelsea), 19 Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton)
Substitutes: 11 Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) for Barnes 46, 10 Phil Foden (Manchester City) for Sessegnon 57, 23 Tammy Abraham (Chelsea) for Dasilva 78
Substitutes not used: 2 Aaron Wan-Bissaka (Crystal Palace), 9 Dominic Solanke (AFC Bournemouth), 13 Angus Gunn (Southampton), 14 LLoyd Kelly (AFC Bournemouth) 15 Ezri Konsa (Brentford), 20 Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolves), 21 Reiss Nelson (Arsenal), 22 Freddie Woodman (Newcastle United)
Head coach: Aidy Boothroyd
Goals: Demarai Gray 79, Tammy Abraham 87