Tammy Abraham was on the scoresheet for England courtesy of Mason Mount in the disappointing 4-2 defeat to Romania in their crucial European Under-21 Championship fixture.
All three Chelsea representatives in England’s starting line-up against France on Tuesday kept their place, with Jay Dasilva and Fikayo Tomori remaining in the back four while Jake Clarke-Salter, who captained the side again, was in the heart of the defence.
Mason Mount came off the bench in the last game and showed enough to earn a start against Romania, but striker Tammy Abraham had to once more settle for a place on the bench.
As expected, Tomori showed the continent why he won Derby County’s Player of the Year award last season. His natural pace along with his love for defending allowed him to provide cover behind his teammates whenever a mistake was made. Even when out of position slightly, Tomori was able to make up the ground needed to produce a crunching tackle.
The 21-year-old was always first to the ball and used his upper body strength to shepherd the ball out of play multiple times. However, a rare lapse in concentration proved costly when Tomori failed to clear his lines and Ianis Hagi, son of perhaps the most famous Romanian player of all time, slotted the ball home nicely to give his side the lead for the second time in the match.
With the seemingly imminent appointment of Frank Lampard as Chelsea manager, Blues fans are optimistic about the prospect of already having the next Lampard in their set-up. As he did last season under the guidance of the Chelsea legend, Mount showed elements of his idol’s playing style against Romania.
His late run into the box in the first half to latch onto a pullback is something Chelsea fans are familiar with, but after keeping his composure and making space for a shot, Mount’s effort was deflected off of a Romanian defender and a penalty appeal was swiftly waved away by Swedish referee Andreas Ekberg.
At the end of the half, Mount struck a sweet shot from range which bobbled in front of the opposition goalkeeper, resembling his terrific goal away to Reading in the Championship last season. The 20-year-old was proving difficult to handle, and his interchanging with James Maddison gave the Romanian defenders a headache.
It was clear 60 seconds into the second half that Mount would not be allowed the same amount of space and time as the first. A shivering challenge on the talented midfielder from Baluta earned the latter a deserved yellow card.
After Hamza Choudhury picked up a red card against France, England were left without a natural midfielder who could pick the ball up from deep, but Mount adapted his game and became the primary link between defence and attack for his side. The youngster was given a free role by manager Aidy Boothroyd and covered every blade of grass in doing so.
Most of England’s attacks came down their left-hand side. Dasilva linked well with Harvey Barnes and looked a threat going forward. He was caught out a few times defensively due to being out of position, and at times lacked the physicality needed to play at the highest level, but being 5’7 that is expected.
Dasilva provided plenty of width for the Young Lions and was always the out-ball when England lacked passing options. The 21-year-old was close to providing an assist on the hour-mark after slipping a smart pass behind the full-back for substitute Phil Foden to latch onto, but the Manchester City youngster could only force a save from the Romanian goalkeeper.
As good as Dasilva was at linking up with his teammates in the final third, he also linked up well with Chelsea teammate Clarke-Salter in the building up of attacks. The latter was surprisingly quiet in the six-goal thriller, but showed his passing abilities in the defensive third, frequently finding neat balls into midfield and cross-field exhibition passes.
Clarke-Salter even stepped out into left-back on occasions, providing cover for Dasilva while Kieran Dowell dropped deep into the back four.
Abraham replaced Dasilva in the 76th minute and made the perfect impact ten minutes later. With his side 2-1 down, Abraham was on the end of an exquisite pass from fellow Chelsea academy graduate Mount, and controlled the ball superbly in the right channel before holding the defender off and coolly slotting home into the bottom left-hand corner.
The 21-year-old had two chances to double his tally. First in the 90th minute after being put through by Dowell but failing to beat the ‘keeper, and then seconds later the forward headed against the crossbar from a delicious Jonjoe Kenny cross.
The result means England crash out of the tournament in the group stage after their second loss in as many games. Their third and final fixture is against Croatia on Monday 24th June.
Written by Liam Wilson.