Marcus Rashford leads the way but England's warm-up win is marred by fans' booing

Gareth Southgate's makeshift side secure victory against Romania ahead of Euro 2020

Marcus Rashford has spent much of the last year campaigning on behalf of many in England. As he captained his country for the first time, he provided a different kind of leadership.

Rashford’s cool spot kick secured victory over Romania as England beat them for the first time since the 1970 World Cup. They head into Euro 2020 with back-to-back friendly wins, each secured with weakened teams. Rashford inherited both the armband and the penalty-taking duties from the rested Harry Kane.

If becoming the 125th man to skipper England reflected his performances on the field, his efforts on behalf of children from low-income families – recognised both by an MBE and an online meeting with Barack Obama – are signs of his growing stature.

It made it all the more depressing that, predictable as it was, a section of the England fans booed when the players took the knee before kick-off.

The side have stated their intention to carry on doing so. They defeated a Romania team at their lowest ebb – their world ranking of 43rd is their lowest ever – and, while Rashford’s was a mixed display, he almost struck after a fine solo run.

Then Tiberiu Capusa brought down Jack Grealish, whose propensity to be fouled has stretched from the club game to international football, and Rashford casually sidefooted in the penalty. The irrepressible, if forever kicked, Grealish’s prominence in a central role enhanced his case to start.

England had a second penalty but no second goal. Jordan Henderson’s return after 106 days out was a welcome sight and he could have marked it with a belated first England strike. He was a surprise choice to take the spot kick when Vlad Chiriches fouled Dominic Calvert-Lewin but Florin Nita saved his effort.

Henderson’s cameo also involved a fine pass for Calvert-Lewin when the goalkeeper denied the striker. The Liverpool captain had replaced a fit-again Kalvin Phillips, who may have slipped behind substitute Jude Bellingham in the pecking order; the teenager would have had a first international goal but for a brilliant clearance off the line from Chiriches.

But England’s other outstanding midfielder was James Ward-Prowse. Not included in Gareth Southgate’s initial 26-man party, he staked a claim to replace the injured Trent Alexander-Arnold in the squad. His set-pieces oozed menace; one free kick could have led to a goal on his first start for Ben Godfrey.

Another was pivotal when England hit the woodwork twice in a few first-half minutes. From Ward-Prowse’s delivery, Calvert-Lewin displayed his prodigious leap with a header that rebounded back off the bar. Kane’s understudy offers a different dimension with his aerial prowess. Then Jadon Sancho delivered a rising shot that struck the bar. However, it was understandable that England were disjointed at times.

Southgate had omitted his Champions League finalists, though restoring Manchester United’s Europa League runners-up. It meant he gave three players full debuts. One was busier than England might have liked. Sam Johnstone excelled with a fine save from the raiding right-back Deian Sorescu and a brilliant one from Andrei Ivan’s close-range volley.

Romania had 13 shots and England had problems on the left of their defence. Tyrone Mings made a series of minor errors that better opponents may have punished. One Aston Villa man may have played his way out of the team to face Croatia. Another, Grealish, may have played his way into it.

Published: June 6, 2021 10:33 PM

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