Romania qualified for their first UEFA European Under-17 Championship with a dramatic win against elite round Group 7 hosts Hungary.
Safe in the knowledge that should they win they were through, Romania made their intentions clear right from the off, scoring through Steliano Filip on two minutes. Iulian Roşu doubled the lead later in the half, but Márk Szécsi equalised with six minutes left and then stepped up to take a penalty which was saved by Laurenţiu Brănescu. Had that spot kick gone in, Russia, not Romania, would have been in next Tuesday's draw in Belgrade for the finals in Serbia from 3 to 15 May.
Against a Hungary side also in contention to qualify, Romania struck in the very first attack. Filip broke down the left and when Darius Buia's shot was charged down by Martin Zsirai the ball fell perfectly for the No7, arriving in the box and making no mistake as he buried it hard and low past Dávid Banai.
Romania were now content to cede possession and hit on the break, a tactic that paid dividends on 34 minutes. Iulian Roşu, fouled himself in a rare foray forward, struck a delightful right-foot 20-metre free-kick from the left channel which dipped into the top corner past Banai.
With the clock running down there seemed little to trouble Romania but there would be a sting in the tail. First, Szécsi controlled a long pass from András Pintér and struck firmly past Brănescu from 12 metres.
Then, in the last minute, Ioan Neag was adjudged to have fouled Martin Zsirai in the box. It fell to Szécsi to take the resultant penalty, but just as Romanian hearts were in their mouths the towering Brănescu dived to his right to save. Moments later he was buried under his ecstatic team-mates as they celebrated topping the group and progressing to the finals.
Delighted to qualify and join hosts Serbia, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Germany in the eight-team finals, Romania coach Adrian Văsâi told UEFA.com: "We deserved qualification. It is the reward for the two years' work. We were the best team in our group at the elite round and if we would not have missed so many opportunities in the first match, versus Iceland, we would not have had so many worries against Hungary.
"We have our chances at the final tournament and I fully trust my players, who proved at the elite round that they are capable of passing a tough exam."
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