England Under-21s given a run for their money by Romania
The Young Lions held on for a 2-1 victory in a competitive game at Molineux.
England Under-21s battled to a competitive 2-1 win over Romania as they warmed up for their crunch Euro 2019 qualifying clash with Ukraine.
Goals from Demarai Gray and Jake Clarke-Salter won it, despite Valentin Costache’s consolation, as the Young Lions paid tribute to Cyrille Regis.
The former England, Wolves and West Brom striker died in January with the friendly at Molineux named the ‘Cyrille Regis International’ in his honour.
Romania were picked as they would give England a similar test to Ukraine, who the Young Lions face in Sheffield on Tuesday, with Aidy Boothroyd’s side five points clear at the top of Group 4.
And Romania gave England an excellent, combative, game ahead of the Euro 2019 qualifier and would have taken a deserved draw but for Andrei Ivan hitting the post and Florinel Coman’s poor finishing.
But the Young Lions gave a scoring lesson when Gray fired the hosts into an eighth-minute lead.
The winger was afforded too much time in the area after Ademola Lookman’s cute pass and drilled in from 10 yards.
It should have settled the hosts but they were almost undone immediately when Coman blazed wildly over after being slipped in by Ianis Hagi, son of former Romania skipper Gheorghe.
England quickly regained their composure with Kieran Dowell shooting wide while debutant Ovie Ejaria, a Under-20 World Cup winner, excelled in the middle.
Yet the lead was slender and Romania should have levelled after 25 minutes when they sliced England open.
Hagi produced a stylish pass which split the home defence and Coman squared for Ivan. But, with just Dean Henderson to beat, the Krasnodar striker saw his shot deflect onto the post thanks to a vital intervention from Clarke-Salter.
The miss still encouraged Romania though as England’s threat waned and Henderson needed to save from Coman 10 minutes before the break.
Romania continued to grow in confidence after the break and Kyle Walker-Peters needed to be alert to direct Coman’s cross wide.
England’s first-half promise had disappeared with the competitive visitors taking over but the Young Lions eventually rediscovered their threat.
First, Tammy Abraham looped a header onto the bar with 25 minutes to go before England doubled their lead eight minutes later.
Walker-Peters forced Ionut Radu to tip his low drive onto the post and from Trent Alexander-Arnold’s resulting corner Clarke-Salter headed in.
Romania, though, got the goal they deserved when Costache bundled in from close range after a mistake from Henderson, who redeemed himself with a late save from Coman.