England began their preparation for the Euros with a narrow 1-0 win over Austria at Riverside Stadium in Middlesborough with Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka scoring his debut goal for the country.
Manager Gareth Southgate saw his experimental side secure victory when Arsenal teenager Saka finished off a fine attacking move with an angled finish for his first international goal after 56 minutes.
Harry Kane, Jesse Lingard and Jack Grealish had a part to play in England’s goal in what was a less than convincing performance from the home side.
Southgate, however, has a major problem to fret about as Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold limped off the pitch, which could see his spot in jeopardy for the Euros that kick-off on the 11th of June.
Jack Grealish staked his claim for England’s starting line-up as they prepare for Croatia in the first group-stage match of Euro 2020, with a strong showing.
— Harry Kane (@HKane) June 2, 2021
Southgate, who named his 26-man squad for the Euros on Tuesday, picked a side with an unfamiliar look as players involved with Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City in the Europa League and Champions League finals were not selected, so he will be happy to come out with a win – but it was not a convincing display.
England survived scares when Everton defender Ben Godfrey, making his debut as a substitute, sent keeper Jordan Pickford scrambling to retrieve a wayward backpass, while the keeper touched RB Leipzig captain Marcel Sabitzer’s shot onto the bar.
Alexander-Arnold walked gingerly around the pitch with the England medical staff and debutant Ben White had a role to play immediately as he cleared the ball off the line from an Alessandro Schopf shot after Pickford’s punch fell to him in the area.
The victory means England have now won seven consecutive friendly matches, which is their best run in friendlies since winning seven in a row under Sir Bobby Robson between June 1985 and May 1986.
Alexander-Arnold’s selection for the Euros was a big debating point in the build-up to the squad announcement, with Southgate ultimately deciding he was simply too big a talent to leave out.
It was fitting that Saka scored his first international goal, truly showing his value to England, while Grealish produced a man-of-the-match performance that fully deserved the ovation he received when he came off to get a rest. He was England’s main creator and driving force.
Borussia Dortmund central midfielder Jude Bellingham became the youngest player to start a game for England (17 years and 338 days) since Wayne Rooney in September 2003 vs Liechtenstein (17 years and 321 days).
England manager Gareth Southgate speaking to ITV: “I thought we started very well. We used the ball well in the first hour or so. We were playing against a very good side. They have good players. They get in between the lines well.
“The first hour was good in terms of quality. After that, we needed to make a lot of changes and preserve people. We got a bid disjointed and people had cramp. We were hanging on at the end. It was understandable given the changes.
“Jack Grealish showed some lovely touches. You can see he’s still getting to full fitness – with the bursts you know he can make. He’s a quality player.”