England battle into finals
Published : 12 Oct 2010 16:00:42
England kept their discipline to reach the UEFA Under-21 Championship finals as they snuffed out Romania to earn a goalless draw in Tuesday'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.
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.
There was no sign of England trying to keep it tight in an opening 15 minutes in which both sides could easily have gone in front. Sabin Sburlea and Alexe both went close and goalkeeper Frank Fielding was almost caught in no man's land before England fashioned a great chance.
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 Silviu Lung.
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.
Fabrice Muamba was fortunate not to concede an early second-half penalty when a foul on Eric 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.
Torje's corner caused chaos in the final seconds of injury-time but England survived.