England qualify for under-21s Championship
Tuesday 12 October 2010
England kept their discipline to reach the UEFA Under-21 Championship finals as they snuffed out Romania in today's play-off second leg in Botosani.
Stuart Pearce's men survived more than one first-half scare and missed two good chances of their own at the Municipal Stadium but their 2-1 first-leg win proved enough to book a spot at next summer's tournament in Denmark.
Daniel Sturridge wasted the visitors' best opportunity, while Marius Alexe wasted a glorious chance for Romania as England deservedly held out.
Qualification is no mean feat for a side which has seen many of the stars who reached the tournament's final just over a year ago graduate to the senior set-up.
England's first-leg lead meant they needed today only to extend their unbeaten away record at under-21 level, which dated back almost five years.
But there was no sign of them trying to keep it tight in an opening 15 minutes in which both sides could easily have gone in front.
Sabrin Sburlea set the tone in the first minute with a deflected 20-yard strike which Frank Fielding tipped round the post.
Sburlea and Alexe both went close again and Fielding was almost caught in no man's land before England fashioned two decent chances of their own.
Chelsea striker Sturridge - the only change from Friday's win after Jack Wilshere joined the senior squad - forced a good stop from Silviu Lung and Phil Jones somehow failed to head Tom Cleverley's free-kick into the net.
But it was Sturridge who really should have scored just past the quarter-hour mark when he raced between two defenders to reach Danny Welbeck's through ball before scuffing his close-range finish too close to Lung.
Eric Bicfalvi almost bundled his way through five minutes later but Jones mopped up the danger.
Cleverley was unable to connect properly with Ryan Bertrand's fine 32nd-minute cross following a brief lull in the action.
Alexe wasted a glorious chance to put Romania ahead when he skied his left-foot finish from 12 yards after Fielding - who was racing off his line too often for comfort - parried Gabriel Torje's dipping long-ranger.
Danny Rose was booked for handball and England captain Michael Mancienne followed suit soon after for holding Ioan Hora.
An unsighted Fielding was almost caught out by the resulting free-kick from Torje, the Blackburn keeper just turning it behind.
Fabrice Muamba was fortunate not to concede an early second-half penalty when a foul on Bicfalvi was deemed to have been outside the box.
Otherwise, England were looking far more solid than they had in the first period, restricting their opponents to speculative long-range strikes.
Sburlea had the best of them just after the hour mark, but Fielding was equal to it.
Romania immediately threw on Vlad Chiriches for Cornel Rapa, while England responded by introducing Henri Lansbury for Sturridge, who was booked for taking too long to leave the field.
Cleverley soon followed for a clumsy tackle on Torje, seconds before Fielding fumbled Sburlea's 30-yard shot, almost letting it squirm underneath him.
Raul Rusescu came on for Alexe and it was then Lung's turn to be nearly caught out when Cleverley's free-kick evaded everyone and the keeper parried it to safety.
Torje's corner caused chaos in the final seconds of injury-time but England survived.
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