ENGLAND 1, ROMANIA 0
Marcus Rashford gave England a winning send-off for delayed Euro 2020 on the proud day he captained his country for the first time.
The 23-year-old Manchester United striker struck the match-winning penalty which have England a long-overdue victory against Romania at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.
Incredibly it was England’s first win against Romania since they met in the 1970 World Cup finals in Mexico.
They were without a win against them in their last seven meetings, but Rashford ended the dismal run against their bogey side.
It was an open and entertaining game with Romania belying their lowly 43rd place in FIFA’s world rankings, 39 places below England.
The visitors musted a creditable 14 goal attempts to 19 from England in a match where there would have been far more than one scored had either had more of a cutting edge to their play.
But it was again another England side which will bear little semblance to the one which will face Croatia next Sunday in their Euro opener.
It was an opportunity for manager Gareth Southgate to give game time to many of his squad players and for them to stake a claim to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Of all those involved, Southampton’s James Ward-Prowse probably enhanced his claims most.Embed from Getty Images
It was a day to remember for Rashford who said: “It is definitely a great moment for me (being captain). It is something you dream of when you are a kid.
“Today I accomplished that. It was difficult. We had to stick together and work. It was challenging defensively. But we created a lot of chances. We did well from set-pieces both attacking and defensively. Ultimately that is what won us the game.”
And of England’s Euro chances, Rashford added: “We have to have that self-belief and self-confidence. But we know if we want to win the tournament we have to improve. We will keep our heads down and keep working.”
Southgate thought England could have won by a wider margin, saying: “Yes, we had chances to make it more comfortable but so did they.
“In the first half we did not work hard enough without the ball, we were too stretched and did not press well. After half-time, I thought we improved and it was helpful we went to 4-3-3 later and I have to say it was a good exercise, players needed the minutes and learned a lot from the game. It was good to win.
On who will replace Trent Alexander-Arnold in the squad, Southgate said: “We just want to check how we are after the game medically, check we have nothing to go through and will make the decision over the next 24 hours. I will keep my powder dry for now.”
West Brom keeper Sam Johnstone made his first senior appearance for England as Southgate makes nine changes to the side that started against Austria.
It represented the culmination of a remarkable journey from being a youngster at Manchester United and frequent loanee – he even had two pre-season matches for Oldham Athletic during Paul Dickov’s reign as manager.
United duo Luke Shaw and Rashford returned, while Tyrone Mings and Jack Grealish were the only survivors from the side that started the last match against Austria four days earlier.
Standby players Ben Godfrey, Ben White and Ward-Prowse all started as they look to impress, with Southgate set to name a replacement for the injured Alexander-Arnold.
Rashford captained England for the first time in the absence of Harry Kane, while White and Godfrey were making their first England starts.
But there was surprise with Manchester City, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling and John Stones not featuring in either of the warm-up matches, nor has Chelsea’s Mason Mount and Reece James.
“We have players who need minutes and some players who definitely don’t need minutes,” explained Southgate.
Romania arrived on the back of three successive defeats – and having missed out on a place at Euro 2020.
Captain and defender Vlad Chiriches made 27 Premier League appearances for Tottenham between 2013-2015, while Rangers’ forward Ianis Hagi started on the substitutes bench.
There was a mixture of boos and jeers as the players from both sides took the knee before kick-off.
Romania had the first chance after 10 minutes, but Razvan Marin shot low at Johnstone.
England had openings but Jadon Sancho, Grealish and Godfrey all blazed over as their finishing was woeful.
Romania, by contrast, were hitting the target and Constantin Paun drew another diving save from Johnstone.
By far the best chance came in the 32nd minute when Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header from the edge of the box following Ward-Prowse’s free kick crashed against the crossbar.
England were denied by the crossbar for a second time in six minutes, this time from Sancho.
Following a delightful inter-change of passes with Grealish, Sancho bent a shot beyond Nita, but it struck the frame of the goal.
There was an amusing interlude when a bare chested male encroached on to the field before being apprehended by a steward with fans taunting the individual because of his portly figure.
Romania’s best chance of the half came in the last minute after a counterattack ended with Sorescu Deian Cristian’s angled shot kept out by Johnstone’s legs.
England made a change for the restart as Liverpool’s fit-again captain Jordan Henderson replaced Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips.
And they should have gone ahead soon when Calvert-Lewin’s met Ward-Prowse’s free kick from six yards but could only direct his shot straight at Nita.
Romania remained a threat as Cristian volleyed narrowly wide and Andrei Ivan sliced an effort off target as neither side was able to make a breakthrough.
England continued to carve out openings as Ward-Prowse’s free kick forced a save from Nita while Rashford broke clear on the left only to drag his shot disappointingly wide.
Southgate made a double switch midway through the half as Ward-Prowse and Sancho made way for Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.
The breakthrough came in the 67th minute when England were awarded a penalty.
Romania substitute Tiberiu Capusa, who had been on the field barely one minute, pulled back Grealish as he burst into the box and Rashford slotted home the spot kick, his 12th senior goal for England.
It took an amazing reflex save from Johnstone to deny Romania an equaliser.
An initial shot took a ricochet off Tyrone Mings to Ivan six yards out, but the keeper made an unbelievable stop.
England made two further changes, Jesse Lingard and Kieran Trippier for Rashford and Luke Shaw.
England were awarded a second penalty in the 77th minute when Calvert-Lewin went down under a challenge from Chiriches.
As Rashford had been substituted, Henderson stepped forward only for Nita to make super stop low to his right.
Ollie Watkins became the sixth England substitute as he took over from Calvert-Lewis.
And he immediately set up a chance, a cross which Bellingham met but his header was blocked on the line by Chiriches’ outstretched leg.