Smalling gives England advantage
Smalling's goal gives England slight edge in play-off
Last Updated: 08/10/10 10:42pm
Pearce: Slight advantage
Stuart Pearce breathed a sigh of relief after Chris Smalling opened his account for England Under-21's to give them the advantage in the first-leg of their European Championship qualifying play-off.
A sweet volley from Jordan Henderson gave England the lead just after the hour mark, but a deflection off Ryan Bertrand saw Romania back in the game.
But Smalling was on hand to ease England nerves as he converted from close range following substitute Daniel Sturrdige's flick on.
The win means England will take a slender advantage to Romania as they battle it out for a place in the European Championship.
It remains to be seen, though, whether Arsenal youngster Jack Wilshere, who will again have caught the eye of watching England manager Fabio Capello, is to be involved in the second leg after also being included in the seniors' squad for their forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley on Tuesday night.
Pearce had warned Romania would be no pushovers, having won their group in impressive fashion, and so it proved.
The visitors were not just content to sit back as Dinamo Bucharest youngster Marius Alexe, a reported target for Chelsea, looked lively in attack while Gabriel Torje struck the post a minute before the interval.
There was an early yellow card issued by Italian referee Paolo Tagliavento for Romania defender Stefan Barboianu as he went through the back of Tom Cleverley, on loan at Wigan from Manchester United.
England created the first decent opening inside four minutes.
Full-back Bertrand - on loan at Nottingham Forest from Chelsea and who had a spell with Norwich during 2008-09 - got away down the left, before whipping a dangerous ball into the penalty area.
Goalkeeper Silviu Lung punched clear, only for the ball to drop right to Henderson some 25 yards out, and the Sunderland midfielder's first-time volley was acrobatically turned away by the Romania No.1.
England keeper Frank Fielding got down quickly to make a smart save as Eric Bicfalvi cut into the left side of the area and drilled a low shot back across the face of goal.
There were shouts for a penalty when Tottenham's Danny Rose burst into the Romania box and tumbled as he ran across Cornel Rapa, but the referee was right on top of the action and waved play on.
The referee turned down what this time looked a strong penalty shout as Rose was barged over by Valerica Gaman, much to the frustration of the sell-out Carrow Road crowd of 25,750.
Romania almost snatched the lead on the stroke of half-time when Torje hit the base of the near post after another swift counter-attack.
Captain Michael Mancienne, spending another season on loan at Wolves from Chelsea, drilled a low shot in from 25 yards, which was deflected around the post.
From the resulting corner, England took the lead after 61 minutes.
Lung again punched clear, rather than attempting to catch. The ball fell to Henderson once more and this time, the midfielder's volley flew back into the bottom corner, under the arms of the Romania keeper.
Carrow Road erupted, but in the dugout, Pearce remained unmoved.
England pressed for a second, with Wilshere powering his way into the left side of the penalty area and drilling a shot at Lung, which this time the Romania keeper held on to.
It was the visitors, though, who snatched a crucial away goal on 70 minutes.
A quick break and a neat exchange around the England area saw the ball worked out to Ioan Hora on the right, with his low centre spinning off Bertrand and inside the near post past a wrong-footed Fielding.
Pearce immediately made a change as he replaced Cleverley with Aston Villa's Marc Albrighton and then introduced Sturridge for Welbeck with 10 minutes left.
It proved an inspired tactical switch as Sturridge headed back a corner at the far post into a crowded six-yard box, which Wilshere flicked on and Smalling crashed in to give England a lead to defend in Botosani on Tuesday.
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group One
|6||San Marino U21||9||4|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Two
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Three
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Four
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Five
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Six
|4||Rep of Ireland U21||7||8|
|5||Faroe Islands U21||7||1|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Seven
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Eight
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Nine
|5||N Ireland U21||7||3|
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Ten
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Eleven
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Twelve
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Thirteen
European Under-21 Championship Qualifying Group Fourteen