By Michael Hincks
Jake Clarke-Salter, Ovie Ejaria, Ademola Lookman: Young Lions impress in England U21s victory
Last Updated: 24/03/18 9:48pm
England U21s battled to a 2-1 victory over Romania at Molineux, but who impressed for the Young Lions? Michael Hincks takes a look.
Aidy Boothroyd's side went six games unbeaten on Saturday as goals from Demarai Gray and Jake Clarke-Salter were enough to see off Romania in the Cyrille Regis International.
In a friendly which featured nine U20 World Cup winners, we pick out three standout performers from the hard-fought victory…
England U21s battle past Romania
England U21s warmed up for Tuesday's Euro 2019 qualifier against Ukraine with a hard-fought 2-1 friendly win over Romania
Defence - Jake Clarke-Salter
With a telling contribution in either half, Clarke-Salter put in a man-of-the-match display at Molineux. Making his U21s debut, the Chelsea loanee - currently playing at Sunderland - turned Andrei Ivan's low effort onto the post before heading England into a 2-0 lead after the break.
Clarke-Salter even assumed the captain's armband once Gray was substituted, outlining Boothroyd's belief that, debut or not, this is a centre-back who possesses leadership qualities beyond his years.
Honourable mention: Kyle Walker-Peters made a vital block in injury time to prevent Valentin Costache from levelling, while the Tottenham defender also denied Mihai-Alexandru Dobre with a last-ditch interception.
Midfield - Ovie Ejaria
Another player making his U21s debut, Liverpool midfielder Ejaria - also on loan at Sunderland - cut a composed figure in the middle of the park, recording the most passes on the pitch (58) with an accuracy of 96.6%.
The 20-year-old also highlighted his defensive capabilities, retrieving the ball a joint-high six times, as well as putting in two tackles and one interception.
Honourable mention: Ejaria's midfield partner Ainsley Maitland-Niles also stood out, but after making a match-high three tackles and boasting a passing accuracy of 96.4%, the versatile Arsenal player hobbled off midway through the second half - a decision which looked precautionary ahead of Tuesday's Euro 2019 qualifier against Ukraine.
Attack - Ademola Lookman
Starting in a No 10 role, England's positive start was down to Lookman. A sharp first-time pass from the Everton loanee set Gray up perfectly for England's opener, while a further two key passes could have helped extend their advantage further.
After switching out wide in the second half, Lookman was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet himself when a second-half attempt struck the post. Sam Allardyce will have been buoyed by this impressive display, and the Everton boss can only hope the 20-year-old breaks into RB Leipzig's starting XI before the season comes to a close.
Honourable mention: Another loanee - this time Kieran Dowell. The Everton midfielder - currently at Nottingham Forest - combined well with Alexander-Arnold down the right, playing a couple of smart backheels for the right-back as well as getting away four shots - two of which were blocked.