Chris Smalling’s late winner ensured Roy Hodgson’s England will head into Euro 2016 with three straight victories under the belts, as they saw off ten-man Portugal 1-0 at Wembley Stadium.
The hosts looked the more likely to take the lead during a goalless first half, with Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane going close, but Portugal were forced to play for over an hour with ten men after Bruno Alves saw red.
England searched for a way through as Hodgson sent on reinforcements in the second half, and it was replacement Raheem Sterling who swung in an excellent cross for defender Smalling to head home the winning goal.
England 1-0 Portugal
Thursday 2 June 2016
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
By Jack Miller
Hodgson went into England’s 50th game at the new Wembley Stadium with a dynamic selection, as skipper Rooney and strikers Kane and Jamie Vardy all started together for the first time for the Three Lions.
The line-up contained ten changes from the side that beat Australia in Hodgson's last chance to see his players in action before the start of the tournament.
And after a relatively even start, it was the hosts who fashioned the first real opportunity after ten minutes.
Kyle Walker used his searing pace to great effect to intercept a Portugal clearance, before playing in Kane whose inch-perfect ball was met by Rooney – but the skipper was just offside.
England looked assured in defence and Portugal were reduced to long-range efforts, with Nani blasting a 17th-minute shot high over Joe Hart’s crossbar.
But just five minutes later Walker was in the thick of things again as his right-footed cross found Rooney at the back post, who could not beat Rui Patricio with his header.
Ricardo Carvalho headed Joao Moutinho’s free-kick over, but England looked the more likely to score with Danny Rose’s shot hitting Kane on the half hour before the impressive Walker fizzed a half-volley wide a minute later.
But the complexion of the game changed entirely in the 35th minute, as Portugal defender Alves was sent off for a reckless tackle on Kane.
There was still time for the England number nine to sting the gloves of Patricio again before half-time as he was fed by Rooney, but the sides went in level at 0-0.
Despite being a man down, Portugal kept the ball well immediately after the interval and quick feet from substitute Andre Gomes almost fashioned an opening on 56 minutes.
Eric Dier saw his curling effort saved with 30 minutes remaining, and Gary Cahill was unlucky as his bullet header from Kane’s free-kick hit a Portugal defender five minutes later.
Hodgson then rang the changes with Sterling and Jack Wilshere introduced, and immediately Rooney almost went clear.
Sterling did brilliantly to send Rose clear on 74 minutes but his cross from the byline was just cut out by Carvalho.
The subs were having an impact as Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge linked up well inside the area soon after coming on, but with ten minutes to play England still could not find a way through.
But just as it looked as though the game was heading for a draw, up popped Smalling with a sublime header from Sterling’s cross to glance the ball into the far corner of the net on 86 minutes.
So England travel to their UEFA EURO 2016 base in Chantilly on Monday off the back of three straight wins, with their tournament opener against Russia now just nine days away.
England (4-3-3): 1 Joe Hart (Manchester City); 2 Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur), 5 Gary Cahill (Chelsea), 6 Chris Smalling (Manchester United), 3 Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur); 4 James Milner (Liverpool), 17 Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), 20 Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur); 9 Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), 10 Wayne Rooney (Captain, Manchester United), 11 Jamie Vardy (Leicester City).
Substitutes: 7 Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) for Vardy 65, 17 Jack Wilshere (Arsenal) for Milner 65, 8 Adam Lallana (Liverpool) for Rooney 77, 15 Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) for Kane 77, 14 Jordan Henderson (Liverpool) for Alli 89
Substitutes not used: 12 Nathaniel Clyne (Liverpool), 13 Fraser Forster (Southampton), 16 John Stones (Everton), 19 Ross Barkley (Everton), 22 Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), 23 Tom Heaton (Burnley)
Goal: Smalling 85
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Portugal: 1 Rui Patricio, 11 Vieirinha 2 Bruno Alves, 6 Ricardo Carvalho, 19 Eliseu 10 Joao Mario, 8 Joao Moutinho, 13 Danilo, 23 Adrien Silva, 17 Nani (capt), 18 Rafa Silva
Substitutes: 4 Jose Fonte for Rafa Silva 38, 15 Andre Gomes for Mario 45, 20 Ricardo Quaresma for Nani 60, 16 Renato Sanches for Adrien Silva 71, 14 William Carvalho for Moutinho 71, 9 Eder for Ricardo Carvalho 89
Substitutes not used: 5 Raphael Guerreiro, 12 Anthony Lopes, 21 Cedric, 22 Eduardo
Red Card: Alves
Head coach: Fernando Santos
Referee: Marco Guida
FATV highlights: England 1-0 Portugal