Romania vs England (Game 1)
After England’s impressive campaign at the Euro League leg 10 days prior, it was Romania who played host for two friendly matches in the coastal town of Constanta.
Playing conditions were certainly different from Minehead, the sun blazing and the temperature at 30 ‘C. Kick off was 5pm local time which included a one minute silence for the late Sir Bobby Robson.
The first real action came after 1 minute of play; captain Bowes and Dean Blake played a great pass and move which saw Romania’s Croi make a decent tackle to prevent any danger. Gary Funnell was lively up front and his turn from Sam Webb’s distribution struck the opposition’s side netting.
But it was Romania who found the back of the net first. Maci found space on the left wing to hit the ball bottom right corner of the goal which seemed to really pump up the 600 or so spectators.
With their noses up, Romania began to attack with more intent. M. Poste watched his over head kick almost lob Webb and Boatza had a fierce strike bounce just over England’s crossbar.
However it was player/manager Jamie O’Rourke who had a reply striking the ball low resulting in a great save from Romania’s goalkeeper Rizan.
Funnell who showed good pace to beat the keeper, gathered the loose ball but the angle was too tight for any good chance of an equaliser.
Romania, especially Maci, was certainly entertaining the crowd with several over head kicks, however, the hosts were not putting their chances away.
Jonny Rodriguez, who had bundles of energy chasing everything down, managed to find the equaliser that England deserved. From out of nothing, Rodriguez flicked the ball up just inside the opposition’s half and placed the ball far right corner of the goal.
Now it was England’s turn to gain some momentum. Funnell found space down the left wing and skipped past Romania’s goalkeeper who mistimed his challenge giving England a penalty. Funnell stepped up who smashed the ball straight down the middle to give England the lead for the first time in the game.
With only a minute or so left in the second period, Mark Mitchell made some vital tackles to keep his team leading going into the last period.
It was to be a big last 12 minutes for England who were looking to beat the recent Group B winners of the Euro League leg in Italy. A one goal lead is always a dangerous score line but it was O’Rourke who tried to change that shooting from his own half only to see the ball bounce agonisingly over the bar.
Romania was benefiting from most of the decisions from the officials and the next two were no exception. Mitchell fighting hard in the middle of the pitch gave away a foul for allegedly pulling on Rajihho shirt. This resulted in a fantastic save from Webb to keep his team in the lead. Webb was again called into action after Bowes gave away a free kick which was clearly an accidental handball from the England captian.
Again Rodriguez proved to be a threat for the Romanians. His attempted bicycle kick was illegally blocked which gave him the opportunity to give his team some breathing space going into the last few minutes. Rodriguez coolly stepped up to take the free kick just outside the area and smashed the ball in the back of the net.
The final few minutes consisted of some excellent improvising saves from Webb but it was too late for the Romanians. England will have the chance to make it 2 wins out of 2 when they play the Southeastern European country again tomorrow.
By James Corcoran