England 3 Romania 0 match report: Raheem Sterling and Wilfried Zaha run the show for Stuart Pearce's in-form Under-21 side
Friday 22 March 2013
If this was a glimpse of the future for English football, then Stuart Pearce should have a summer to savour.
Watched by senior coach Gary Neville, a clinical victory inspired by Wilfried Zaha and Raheem Sterling against a young Romania side in Wycombe confirmed there is every chance Pearce's fourth attempt to win the European Championships could end in glory in Israel.
Whatever happens, the latest batch of emerging players will give future England managers plenty to work with – even if things go wrong for Roy Hodgson over the next few months.
"Some of the football was outstanding," said assistant manager Brian Eastwick. "Stuart has had the opportunity to look at some new players but he is pretty sure of 16 or 17 of the players who will go to Israel. We've had a very good run so the important thing is to keep that going because it creates confidence going into a big tournament."
After winning their last seven matches without conceding a single goal, Pearce took the opportunity to name a strong side packed with experience at this level.
After Henri Lansbury hobbled off following a collision with Romania keeper Laurent Branescu inside the opening two minutes, replacement Nathan Delfouneso added yet more zip to a lightning-quick front three, with Crystal Palace winger Zaha asked to play an unfamiliar central role while Sterling was on the left.
England should have gone ahead when Zaha picked out Sterling unmarked but his shot was straight at Branescu. Sterling looked back to his best on the left flank and almost capped a sensational solo, only for his shot to whistle over the bar. Eleven minutes before half-time, the breakthrough finally came as Zaha once again exchanged passes with Sterling, beat two players and curled his shot into the net.
The Sterling show continued after the break as a dipping shot from just outside the box just missing the target. He was withdrawn just after substitute Jack Robinson volleyed home a pinpoint cross from Jonjo Shelvey but there was plenty to remind Liverpool what they have been missing.
Delfouneso added a third in the penultimate minute following another assist from Shelvey, although Pearce will know much stiffer tests lie ahead.
England U21 Butland (Steele 87), Clyne (Smith 74),Wisdom, Dawson, Rose (Robinson 46), Sterling (Sordell 64), Chalobah (Carroll 74), Shelvey, Henderson (Lowe 75), Lansbury (Delfouneso 7), Zaha (Wickham 88).
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