Marcus Rashford's penalty gave England a 1-0 victory over Romania in a match again sullied by the supporters' pre-match booing of the team.
The spot kick was a dubious award after Jack Grealish threw his back leg at Tiberu Capusa after getting around him in the box and fell to ground, after which Rashford calmly put the ball to the keeper's right.
Earlier Dominic Calvert-Lewin hit the bar with a header from James Ward-Prowse's set piece, as the Southampton man did his chances of filling the vacant squad position no harm, and Jadon Sancho also hit the frame of the goal with a curling effort from the edge of the area.
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England's advantage was retained thanks to a remarkable stop from Sam Johnstone from Andrei Ivan's point blank range.
Then 11 minutes from time, substitute Jordan Henderson, on his return to football after four months out with a groin injury, took the ball off Calvert-Lewin, after the Everton striker was brought down for another penalty, only to see his effort from 12 yards parried away by Florin Nita.
Before the game, despite Gareth Southgate calling for fans to respect the players taking a knee before the game, the gesture was again booed by a number at the Riverside, although eventually drowned out by others in attendance applauding.
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Obviously the main talking point will be the abhorrent booing of the England player’s taking a knee – which, especially given Gareth Southgate’s pre-match comments, show a complete disregard for the players these ‘England til I die’ supporters have representing them.
But back to action on the pitch...
Grealish going to ground won England a penalty and the game in this instance, but make no mistake his tendency to flop will be well-known by referees in the tournament and defenders from other teams will remind officials of his reputation in every match. The worm has fully turned from when English pundits would bemoan foreign players who go to ground easily – no one does more so than Grealish, and Rashford isn’t far behind him.
The Villa playmaker did well against Romania and, in open play at least, was the most likely creative source of a goal for England, but talk of him being England’s new Paul Gascoigne is ridiculous. Most notably, Gascoigne despite harsher treatment would never wait for a challenge and go down for a free kick in the centre of the ground. No truly elite player does that.
It stands to reason if you go to ground easily all over the ground you might miss out on a big decision around the box. VAR would most likely not have overruled the penalty decision because there was the slightest of contact with substitute Tiberiu Capusa, even though Grealish was near horizontal at that point, but it certainly would not have awarded a penalty had one not been given in the first instance.
And despite the home advantage, you would not blame referees for not giving the benefit of the doubt to the Aston Villa talisman and waiting for video replays to prove them wrong in the tournament.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Sam Johnstone (England)
This might be a stretch, and most will give Grealish this award, but Sam Johnstone's save from Andrei Ivan was the best moment of the game. Johnstone cannot distribute the ball like Jordan Pickford but at present he is probably better at the traditional aspects of goalkeeping.
He made a good save with his feet from Sorescu which stopped Romania going ahead on the stroke of half time before his great moment 16 minutes from time when Ivan on the turn unleashed a rocket from six yards out only for the West Brom goalkeeper to parry the effort away.
It was every bit as good as any of Pickford’s heralded ones in the 2018 World Cup and suggests he can be a worthy deputy if called upon over the next month or so.
England: Johnstone 8, Godfrey 6, Mings 5, White 7, Shaw 6, Phillips 6, Ward-Prowse 7, Grealish 8, Sancho 6, Rashford 7, Calvert-Lewin 7. Subs: Bellingham 7, Henderson 5, Rice 6, Watkins 7, Lingard 6.
Romania: Nita 7, Sorescu 7, N'cearu 6, Chiriches 5, Camora 6, Marin 6, Cicaldau 6, Stanciu 7, Ivan 7, Paun 6, Alibec 6. Subs: Capusa 5, Hagi 6, Budescu 7, Baluta 6, Rus 6.
32' Off the bar! Calvert-Lewin heads Ward-Prowse's free kick against the bar.
38' Off the bar! Grealish dribbles into the box and plays a short ball back to Sancho who curled a tremendous effort that again smacked the face of the bar.
67' Penalty! Grealish goes down very easily in the box but wins the spot kick.
68' GOAL FOR ENGLAND! Rashford scores, he waits for the keeper to move, the keeper doesn't move and so he sidefoots to the keeper's left.
74' What a save! That was incredible from Johnstone. Cicaldau saw an effort blocked and then Ivan volleyed a ball at incredible pace from six yards out which Johnstone parried away .
78' Penalty for England! Chirches crazily launches at the ball in the area and Calvert-Lewin nudges the ball past him and is caught for a penalty.
79' Saved! Henderson shoots to the keeper's right and the keeper makes a very good save parrying it away. Why did he take it though? He took the ball off Calvert-Lewin.
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