Peter Crouch was on the spot to head England to victory in Vienna with a first half goal against Austria.
Austria 0-1 England
8pm, Friday 16 November 2007
Ernst Happel Stadion, Vienna
Peter Crouch headed England to victory on a bitterly cold evening in Vienna, as the Three Lions defeated Austria in preparation for their final Euro 2008 qualifier with Croatia on Wednesday.
In an open game that saw chances at both ends, it was the Liverpool striker who made the difference - heading a David Beckham corner low into the bottom corner just before the break.
There were two England players making their England debuts, Scott Carson and Ashley Young - both of Aston Villa - in a game that gave Steve McClaren a non-competitive opportunity to ready his players for the crunch test with Croatia at Wembley.
With a quarter of the game gone came an unfortunate collision that left the Austrian keeper Jurgen Macho badly hurt and unable to continue. Beckham played a looping through pass toCrouch, but when the striker ran into the former Chelsea and Sunderland goalkeeper, Alex Manninger was forced on in an early change.
Five minutes later Manninger saw the first real opportunity for England and was called upon to make a smart save from Michael Owen. In a neat move involving Joe Cole, Steven Gerrard and Crouch, England worked the ball quickly and carved out a shooting opportunity for the Newcastle striker - but Manninger tipped it over.
Unfortunately, that would be the final action for Owen, pulling up moments later he would be replaced by Tottenham Hotspur forward Jermain Defoe. Linking up with Micah Richards and Frank Lampard, Defoe was quickly involved in the action as he looked to find Cole at the far post only to overhit his cross.
England went close to breaking the deadlock in the first half, just minutes before the interval. Crouch combined well with Cole to set the Chelsea midfielder through on Manninger, only for the Siena stopper to deny Cole, and then Crouch's follow-up effort was deflected wide.
From the resulting corner, Beckham delivered the ball to the far post and Crouch rose highest to head the ball low into the net. It was a timely goal to lift the Three Lions into the lead just before half-time, and it was lucky for Crouch as he scored his 13th goal for his country.
Just prior to the whistle, Carson was called into action and he made a brave claim at the feet of Sanel Kuljic from a dangerous Ivanschitz cross.
Young was introduced in place of Cole at half-time, to become the second Aston Villa player to make an England debut on the night, along with Wes Brown and Gareth Barry as Steve McClaren took the opportunity to try a few new tactical variations in the second half.
Barry replaced Gerrard and formed a central midfield pairing with Lampard, whilst Young played on the left wing in the place of Cole and Wes Brown came on at right-back. That meant Richards and Joleon Lescott came together in the middle of the defence, as Sol Campbell also left the field.
Crouch almost doubled his tally from a Young cross just before the hour mark, but Manninger got his positioning right and palmed the header away to deny England a second goal.
England always looked comfortable though and with the hosts also making a string of substitutions to stem the flow in the second half, they never really garnered enough momentum to test the defence or Carson.
Substitute David Bentley, introduced in place of Beckham, looked particularly lively in the late stages of the game with his pace, movement and skill causing problems for the Austrian back line. One cross in particular in the 90th minute would've been perfect had Crouch still been on the pitch.
After three minutes of added time, the referee brought proceedings to an end as the Three Lions prepared for their crucial game with Croatia in winning style.
Austria: 1 Jurgen Macho (21 Alex Manninger, 26), 14 Gyorgy Garics, 3 Martin Stanzl (16 Martin Hiden, 86), 4 Franz Schiemer, 5 Ronald Gercaliu, 2 Joachim Standfest (17 Veli Kavlak, 78), 6 Rene Aufhauser, 7 Yuksel Sariyar (20 Martin Harnik, 65), 8 Markus Weissenberger (11 Roman Kiernast, 46), 10 Andreas Ivanschitz (c), 9 Sanel Kuljic (18 Christoph Leitgeb, 46).
Subs: 13 Johannes Ertl, 15 Christian Fuchs, 19 Jurgen Saumel, 22 Jurgen Patocka.
England: 1 Scott Carson, 2 Micah Richards, 3 Wayne Bridge, 4 Steven Gerrard (16 Gareth Barry 46), 5 Joleon Lescott, 6 Sol Campbell (15 Wes Brown 46), 7 David Beckham (18 David Bentley 62), 8 Frank Lampard, 9 Peter Crouch (21 Alan Smith 73), 10 Michael Owen (24 Jermain Defoe 34), 11 Joe Cole (20 Ashley Young 46)
Subs: 12 Ashley Cole, 13 David James, 14 Nicky Shorey, 17 Phil Neville, 19 Stewart Downing, 22 Paul Robinson, 23 Shaun Wright-Phillips
Goals: Crouch 44
Referee: Nicolai Vollquartz