England 1-0 Romania: Jordan Henderson misses penalty, but Marcus Rashford’s previous spot kick wins it
Looking at him, in those last weary moments, made you wonder if Jack Grealish had anything left to give.
Socks around his ankles and his hair tangled with sweat, the bands around his left wrist gave the illusion that he was in pain.
For added drama, there was even a scream before the final whistle. When he sank after a ball on the right wing, Romanian left-back Camora kicked his ankle. Grealish sank to the ground for a moment, rubbed his leg and cringed before screaming out his frustration.
Marcus Rashford celebrates after scoring the only goal of the game against Romania
Rashford sent goalkeeper the wrong way after Jack Grealish won the penalty
The Manchester United attacker made a very slow run before finishing cool in the corner
Rashford celebrates with his teammates after opening the scoring at Riverside Stadium
This had been anything but a painful afternoon for Grealish, whose bright yellow boots doubled as ballet shoes. This may have been the afternoon when he found himself in the starting grid of England’s Euro 2020 grid, 90 minutes when his drive and desire demanded that you keep an eye on him.
Before kick-off there was plenty of speculation about the experimental nature of the English line-up and what – if anything – could be learned from the final dress rehearsal, but it actually turned out to be an instructive day for Gareth Southgate, not in last place with Grealish.
It was long believed that Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford would provide the foil for Harry Kane against Croatia, but that is no longer the case. More than anyone else in these two friendlies in the Northeast, Grealish has given Southgate the kind of dilemma he’d hoped for.
No one would try to paint this match as a classic, but – in the moments of genuine excitement – Grealish’s fingerprints were everywhere. His mischief and imagination, not to mention tenacity, set this real crowd-pleaser.
Jordan Henderson failed to double the lead from the penalty spot 10 minutes later
The Liverpool midfielder looked dejected after seeing his attempt saved by the keeper
What more could Southgate have wished for from these 90 minutes? Despite all the rumblings about inexperience in the lineup – there were three starters and the 11 who started had 106 caps in between – it would never be different. History has told you so much.
For the 2018 World Cup, England’s final against Costa Rica, Southgate chose a team with Jack Butland in goal, Phil Jones in defence, Fabian Delph and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield. Only three starters on Elland Road started against Tunisia in Volgograd 11 days later.
It was nonsense to think that Southgate would show his hand here for a number of reasons – why give the opposition seven days to work on a plan? – but most pertinently, the circumstances made it impossible for him to have his best players together at the same time.
Long after the final whistle came the sense of how challenging it was; with lawnmowers on one half of the Riverside pitch, on the other the Chelsea and Manchester City, who have only just joined the squad, had a late training session (in which Ben Chilwell scored a screamer).
So no, nothing was ideal for England. Key players are cared for after injuries, some will inevitably feel the effects of a long campaign. Unfortunately, there is now the backdrop of oik’s booing as the team goes to their knees and we have to hope no quarrels surface at Wembley.
Dominic Calvert-Lewin (center) headed over the crossbar midway through the first half
These young men will be immensely proud of representing their country, the least we should expect is to be shown respect 30 seconds before kick-off. If you want to captivate and have a ticket, do everyone a favor: don’t go. Southgate and his players don’t want you around.
Southgate longs for the day when he can talk purely about football and if he had the chance there was more than enough for him to come here once the action got underway. As you would expect with such a new lineup, the first 20 minutes were sticky.
Tyrone Mings, in particular, seemed vulnerable and Romania had a chance in the 10th minute to capitalize on England’s uncertainty, but Razvan Marin fired straight at Sam Johnstone from the edge of the area after Camora’s cut.
“In the first half we didn’t work hard enough without the ball,” explained Southgate. “We were too tense, we didn’t press well.”
This was true, but England had moments too. Dominic Calvert-Lewin hit the crossbar with a header from a remarkable jump over former Tottenham defender Vlad Chiriches; Cheerful and busy, Jadon Sancho did the same with a curling drive after Grealish, Rashford and James Ward-Prowse came together.
A word about Ward-Prowse. Southgate will appoint Trent Alexander-Arnold’s replacement on Monday and he didn’t hurt his chances. His set pieces are beautiful, his work ethic is relentless and there was a telling tap on Southgate’s shoulder as he came out in the 65th minute.
Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone (right) produced a stunning save to keep England ahead
England started to turn the screw at that point and moments later they were in charge. It was mostly thanks to Grealish, who made his way into the area from the left sideline and invited substitute Tiberiu Capusa to beat him.
Fittingly, in a nod to that mix-and-match friendly in 2018, Rashford emerged as trumps. His spot kick, rolled in confidently after a 10-second run-up, wasn’t quite as spectacular as the lightning bolt on Elland Road, but it was a nice way to cover up his first time as captain.
There should have been a second in the 78th minute, but Jordan Henderson was left grimacing after taking over from Calvert-Lewin, who had won the penalty after the hapless Chiriches went after him. That first England goal just doesn’t come for the Liverpool captain.
If Sam Johnstone hadn’t made an excellent save to keep Andrei Ivan at bay, that miss would have had greater consequences, but as it was, they got the win they wanted and the English players could go home satisfied. Some – especially Grealish – were happier than others.
Gareth Southgate still has plenty to think about before the European Championship the
Scroll down to see how it all went with Sportsmail’s live runner.