England were made to work for their 1-0 win against Australia in a friendly at Wembley Stadium on Friday night.
Gareth Southgate used many of the fringe players in his squad ahead of Tuesday’s Euro 2024 qualifier with Italy, with the likes of Harry Kane and Jude Bellingham remaining unused substitutes.
The Socceroos put the frighteners on England throughout and were a little unlucky not to have found the back of the net as a reward for their adventurous endeavours.
How the game unfolded
England went close to taking the lead with eight minutes on the clock. Jarrod Bowen managed to free Conor Gallagher down the right flank, but his low cross through the six-yard box just evaded James Maddison and Ollie Watkins.
Down the other end, Australia nearly broke the deadlock themselves. Keanu Baccus’ curling strike was deflected off the head of Fikayo Tomori, and Sam Johnstone had to fling across his line to palm the ball to safety.
The Socceroos again troubled their hosts when a cross from Ryan Strain was volleyed on by Mitchell Duke, with his strike whistling past the post. Shortly after, Kye Rowles fired over following a scramble from an Australia corner.
England should have gone in front when Maddison released Watkins through on goal, rounding goalkeeper Mat Ryan but then somehow only striking the post.
A swift counter attack nearly caught the Three Lions out. Baccus’ long through ball was met by Martin Boyle, who teed up Strain who was unmarked at the back post, but Lewis Dunk managed to clear the resulting shot off the line.
11 minutes after the break, England at last went ahead. A deep cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold was brought down by Jack Grealish, whose low cross was tapped in at the far post by Watkins.
Entering the closing stages, Conor Metcalfe rose highest from an Australia corner and slammed a header a back off the woodwork as the visitors pushed for an equaliser.
Australia piled on the pressure with a series of set pieces but they were ultimately unable to break the England resistance.
GK: Sam Johnstone – 6/10 – Still yet to concede a goal for England in his four appearances for the Three Lions. Kept that record in tact with some fine saves early doors.
RB: Trent Alexander-Arnold – 7/10 – Often tucked into midfield alongside former Liverpool teammate Henderson. One of England’s most progressive passers and consistent threats in the final third.
CB: Fikayo Tomori – 5/10 – Sometimes caught out by Australia’s fast breakaways, though wasn’t glaringly bad.
CB: Lewis Dunk – 5/10 – Ditto. Made a crucial clearance off the line and was a useful aerial threat but looked cumbersome for much of the evening.
LB: Levi Colwill – 4/10 – Not quite a nightmare debut but hardly one that will be looked back upon too fondly over what’s likely to be a long England career. Wasteful in possession, beaten far too easily off of dribbles and booked for getting into minor afters with Baccus.
CM: Jordan Henderson (c) – 5/10 – Showed for the ball and worked hard in front of the back four. Booed off by the Wembley crowd.
CM: Conor Gallagher – 5/10 – He and Maddison were given licence to roam forward and play between the lines. Shifted the ball with a directness that England needed but only on occasion. A little fortunate not to have been sent off for an accumulation of clumsy fouls.
CM: James Maddison – 6/10 – England’s chief creator in the first half but found it harder to pick the lock in the second.
RW: Jarrod Bowen – 4/10 – His only semi-meaningful contribution was the quick pass to send Gallagher into the channels early on. From there on, the winger played right on the very fringes of the contest and showed little desire to get involved.
CF: Ollie Watkins – 7/10 – Put in the hard yards and was eventually rewarded with a simple tap-in to break the deadlock.
LW: Jack Grealish – 7/10 – Played within himself for much of his hour on the pitch before coming up with a neat assist for Watkins – a situation in which he was forced to use his much-maligned ingenuity.
SUB: Kieran Trippier (62′ for Henderson) – 5/10
SUB: John Stones (62′ for Tomori) – 6/10
SUB: Kalvin Phillips (62′ for Gallagher) – 6/10
SUB: Marcus Rashford (62′ for Grealish) – 6/10
SUB: Phil Foden (73′ for Maddison) – 5/10
SUB: Eddie Nketiah (73′ for Watkins) – 5/10 – Made his England debut during the latter stages.
Subs not used: Pickford (GK), Ramsdale (GK), Maguire, Walker, Guehi, Rice, Bellingham, Kane
Gareth Southgate – 6/10 – Will have learnt very little about some of his lesser-used players.
Player of the match – Trent Alexander-Arnold