England Under-21s made a winning start to the Toulon Tournament, where a second-half strike from Lewis Baker was enough to see off Portugal.
The Chelsea midfielder, back from a season-long loan with Dutch outfit Vitesse Arnhem, found the winner for the Three Lions when he converted a cross from Stamford Bridge team-mate Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
England 1-0 Portugal
Thursday 19 May 2016
Stade Leo Lagrange,
Live on BT Sport
And it was no less than Gareth Southgate’s side deserved after creating the better chances throughout the game to get three points on the board in Group B.
In fact, Baker could have had more than his solitary strike, and he almost broke the deadlock after 20 minutes, when he collected a loose ball in midfield to set up an England break.
After finding Loftus-Cheek on the right, he moved inside for a return pass only to see his shot turned over by keeper Joel Pereira.
And Baker was denied again just after the half-hour mark when James Ward-Prowse’s corner picked him out unmarked on the edge of the area, from where he clipped a shot towards goal which Pereira tipped away at full stretch.
At the other end, Jordan Pickford’s first save of the night came in the 40th minute when he was forced into a diving save to deny Dalcio Gomes’ long-range left footer seconds before the break.
England continued on the front foot after the re-start, with Loftus-Cheek and Baker probing from deep and looking for that elusive breakthrough.
But it took a double substitution just shy of the hour mark to make the difference, with Cauley Woodrow and Nathan Redmond replacing Duncan Watmore and Kasey Palmer.
Two minutes later, the goal arrived as Redmond helped the ball onto Loftus-Cheek in the area and after forcing his way past a defender, his cut-back picked out Baker who made no mistake from close range.
With the wind sweeping across the Stade Leo Lagrange as the game drew on, it became harder and harder for both sides to play the football they would’ve liked.
But the damage had been done as Southgate’s side played out the game with no real problems.
They will now face Guinea in their second game of the competition on Monday 23 May.
England Under-21s (4-1-3-2): 1 Jordan Pickford (Sunderland); 2 Dominic Iorfa (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 5 Calum Chambers (Arsenal), 6 Kortney Hause (Wolverhampton Wanderers), 20 Ben Chilwell (Leicester City); 4 Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea); 8 James Ward-Prowse (Southampton) (c), 10 Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), 12 Lewis Baker (Chelsea); 7 Duncan Watmore (Sunderland), 19 Kasey Palmer (Chelsea)
Substitutes: 9 Cauley Woodrow (Fulham) for Woodrow 58, 11 Nathan Redmond (Norwich City) for Palmer 58, 14 Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) for Loftus-Cheek 72, 16 Matt Grimes (Swansea City) for Baker 80.
Substitutes not used: 3 Matt Targett (Southampton), 13 Angus Gunn (Manchester City), 15 Jack Stephens (Southampton), 17 John Swift (Chelsea), 18 Rob Holding (Bolton Wanderers).
Head coach: Gareth Southgate
Goals: Lewis Baker (60)
Cautions: Nathaniel Chalobah (14), Cauley Woodrow (66)
Portugal: 1 Joel Pereira, 2 Hildeberto Pereira, 3 Ruben Dias, 4 Diogo Verdasca, Gilson Costa, 9 Joao Silva, 7 Romario Balde (C), 10 Andre Horta, 14 Dalcio Gomes, 18 Pedro Rodrigues, 20 Paolo Henrique.
Substitutes: 11 Ruben Macedo for Gomes (69), 8 Sergio Ribeiro for Silva (75), 15 Jorge Fernandes for Horta (76)
Substitutes not used: 5 Ivanildo Fernandes,12 Joao Costa, 13 Rui Silva, 16 Joao Gamboa, 17 Alexandre Silva, 19 Bruno Wilson
Coach: Edgar Borges
Watch the highlights of England's win over Portugal